“Jobs are where an awful lot of our challenge lies,” said Dr. James V. Koch, President Emeritus, Old Dominion University, as he addressed the audience at the 17th Annual State of the Region Address, at the Hampton Roads Convention Center on Friday, October 7th. “We’ve yet to recover all the jobs we lost in the great recession.”
Job growth was one of many topics discussed at the event, presented by LEAD Hampton Roads, a program of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Dr.Koch, along with Dr. Robert McNab and Dr. Timothy Komarek, of the Old Dominion Univeristy Economics Department presented the address to almost 200 business and community leaders.
Leading off with a welcome by Mark Handley, chair of the LEAD Board of Trustees and the Sr. Vice President, AECOM, the program got underway. Though the subject matter isn’t always uplifting, the State of the Region event serves to inform the community on the region's economic strengths, challenges and inter-relationships, based on the annual report produced by the Regional Studies Institute at Old Dominion University.
Dr. Koch opened the economic overview of the past year with a look at our regions “big three” economic pillars—defense spending, the port of Virginia, and hotels and tourism. The overarching sentiment is that 2016 turned out to be very much like 2015.
Dr. Koch, Dr. McNab and Dr. Komarek spoke briefly on other areas of the report, including the LBGTQ community, the housing market, the risk of certain jobs of being eliminated by automation, the prison system, and traffic congestion. Hampton Roads residents spend an average of 45 hours a year delayed in traffic.
The address ended with a question and answer session where audience members posed questions about the influence defense spending on limiting the private economy, and how we relate overall to other regions with similar military influence. Regions like San Diego and Charleston, have adjusted well to the decrease in federal and military spending, though they had less of it, but “we could learn a few lessons from them as to what we could do,” said Dr. Koch.
When asked about any emerging “pillars,” Hampton Roads could develop as defense dollars decrease; Dr. Koch suggested the medical, health, and university sectors. These industries include the fastest growing, highest paying jobs in our region. “[It] is a cluster that has potential, even in bad times health care costs make it almost recession proof.”
Thanks to our sponsors Optima Health (Presenting Sponsor), Capital One Commercial Banking (Platinum Sponsor), Bon Secours (Legacy Sponsor), PNC Bank and Damuth Trane (Gold Sponsors), and Clark Nexsen, Ainslie Group, Old Dominion University, Seventh Point, Cox Communications, and BB&T (Silver Sponsors).