In today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing global economy, traditional political boundaries are irrelevant. The boundaries that matter, for work and for play, are those of commerce, and they are drawn around metropolitan regions, not localities.
Regions that will prosper are those that find ways to become more agile and efficient - providing their economies with cost effective and supporting infrastructure - within these economic boundaries. In the absence of region-wide mechanisms for the provision of these essentials, cooperation among localities in a region is imperative.
Why is this so? Simply put: Interdependence.
Interdependence in Economy
Hampton Roads is a single, interconnected metropolitan region, with a shared destiny, held together by a complex web of business and personal relationships. When something good or bad happens in one community its impacts are quickly felt around the region.
A real world example is the 2007 closing of Ford Motor Co.’s 82 -year-old plant in the City of Norfolk. Common sense would dictate that Norfolk, where the plant was located, would suffer most. But the impact of the loss of 8700 jobs and $450M in payroll is quite significant in neighboring Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, the Peninsula and other communities where employees and suppliers reside. Only 20% of Ford employees lived in Norfolk.
A positive example of this interdependence is the impact of the Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads on the region’s economy. There are port facilities in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News. Despite this concentration, the economic benefits of the port are distributed well beyond these three localities.
In fact, Virginia Beach is the locality that benefits most in terms of jobs, payroll and taxes - followed closely by Newport News. Moreover, additional square footage of distribution center space in the millions will be needed to satisfy port growth. These facilities, which generate jobs, capital investment and taxes will further spread port benefits to the western Hampton Roads communities along the Route 58 and 460 corridors.
Interdependence in Assets
Economies compete on the basis of the type, quality and quantity of their fundamental assets including human resources, infrastructure and intellectual. Such assets span the boundaries of individual jurisdictions and make their impact felt throughout a region. Few localities, including Hampton Roads, sufficiently possess these necessary elements on their own.
The transportation infrastructure of Hampton Roads is a prime illustration. We are a region divided by water and connected together by bridges, tunnels and connecting roadways. Our economy benefits greatly from tourism and port activity. These drivers of our economy, along with others, will wither without a sufficient regional transportation system for the movement of people and goods.
Working together, cooperatively, to build the region’s fundamental assets is the best way to ensure their availability when companies and individuals outside of the region make investment, production, distribution and site relocation decisions about Hampton Roads.
Interdependence in People
According to several economic studies conducted by Dr. James V. Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics and President Emeritus of Old Dominion University, upwards of 60% of Hampton Roads residents live in one community and work in another. And when a dollar is earned in one locality, it ripples throughout the region; more than half goes outside the locality.
Nearly one third of all non-work trips (errands, entertainment, recreation, etc.) taken in Hampton Roads are outside of an individual’s home jurisdiction. This is due in large part to the great variety and sheer numbers of high quality amenities, museums, theme parks, shopping centers and the like, from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront to Colonial Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle and everywhere in between. Some credit is due to the significant level of tourism our region attracts. Few of our attractions would thrive, though, without cross locality visitation from within Hampton Roads.
Choices in work and recreation - and the ability to take advantage of them via an efficient transportation system - are the essence of prosperity and a high quality of life. Our standard of living would be impossible without a regional context.
In summary, regions – not cities or counties – are the units of economic competition in the world today. Only regions have the necessary scale and diversity to compete in the global marketplace. Only regions have an asset profile capable of projecting overall strength.
Regions are the geographic units in which our goods and services are created. We hire from a regional labor force. We count on a regional transportation system to move the people and the materials involved in their production. We rely on a regional infrastructure to keep the bridges and roads intact and our sewers and pipelines functioning. We live in a regional environment where water and air – and people – do not recognize political boundaries.
To compete effectively regions have to be cohesive – that is, they have to be capable of solving problems and seizing opportunities in a timely fashion, together. In a nation with few regional governments, cities and counties must find ways to work together for their mutual benefit.
Hampton Roads is more competitive, as a region, when we think, live and act regionally.