By simply getting together, Hampton Roads and Richmond have taken a step toward greater economic collaboration.
Over two days – Oct. 16-17 – business leaders from both areas took a firsthand look at each region’s assets with the goal of jump-starting conversations that could lead to the creation of a megaregion.
Together, Hampton Roads and Richmond would be one of the top 20 largest metro areas in the U.S., a metric that would keep the region on the radar of companies that are looking to startup and grow, according to community leaders who champion both areas.
About 50 people from both regions began the two-day event at Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth.
“We’ve essentially got two huge urban economic economies ... and we have room to grow in between,” said Ted Chandler, who is spearheading the inter-regional initiative along with Tom Frantz. “We have the functional connectivity that comes from a shared road system, a shared river, a shared railroad and increasingly for the information economy we live in, the shared broadband that’s going to flop ashore on Virginia Beach.”
Chandler is a former chairman of the Richmond chamber and co-founder of a Richmond-based venture capital fund. Frantz serves in executive roles with Reinvent Hampton Roads, the Hampton Roads Business Roundtable and also is chairman emeritus of the Williams Mullen law firm.
“When you also look at your strengths and our weaknesses between the regions, and our economy, it fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. The weaknesses in RVA are strengths in Hampton Roads. We are more compatible than we are competitive,” Chandler said.
Brian Ball, Virginia’s secretary of commerce and trade, was the featured speaker at a dinner that capped the busy first day of the event.
He applauded the effort to start a conversation about collaboration.
“You can’t figure out if there’s a path forward together until you start talking to each other,” Ball said. “So this is a great first step.”
At the same time, Ball noted collaboration starts close to home. Intra-regional cooperation is just as critical as inter-regional cooperation.
Ball gave this example:
“If you get a company that’s interested in relocating a manufacturing facility into one of these regions, they get very specific about what they need for a site. And it may turn out that only one community within your region has a viable site. It’s important for every other community in that region to support the community with the site. We don’t always do that,” Ball said.
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