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Old Dominion's Regional Studies Institute has issued its second annual "State of the Region" report, an examination of various Hampton Roads issues, from economic performance to K-12 private schools.

The 144-page report also looks at the pros and cons of bringing a major league sports team to the area; the effects of a decline in the volume of coal handled by the Port of Hampton Roads; the region's loss of political clout in the General Assembly as a result of redistricting and other factors; and the effect of banking mergers and consolidations on Hampton Roads.

The report also includes a chapter based on the responses of the first significant public-opinion poll taken of African Americans in Hampton Roads, and a chapter which examines the Dillon Rule, an unwritten "statute" that says, in essence, no city, town, county or region may exercise any power not explicitly granted it by the General Assembly, and argues that it has outlived its usefulness.

In the chapter "Economic Performance and Income," data are presented indicating that the primary reason per capita income in Hampton Roads trails other regions is that this area doesn't own as many income-producing assets, doesn't earn as much business income and doesn't receive as many transfer payments as people who live in other regions.

The data also underline the key role defense expenditures play in the region's economic welfare, even though this spending has declined significantly over the past decade. The report concludes, however, that "these expenditures are going up, and this shot in the arm, by itself, probably will move real, price-adjusted per capita income in Hampton Roads above the national average next year."

A thorough examination of the pros and cons of attracting a major league sports franchise to the region indicates that Hampton Roads would be better off, from an economic standpoint, by not pursuing a professional team. The report
estimates it would cost each citizen of the region $21.29 a year for 20 years to attract and retain a Major League Baseball team.

The report goes on to state, however, "It appears many people believe the pride and prestige associated with major league status are worth even more than that. Thus, even though the net economic benefits from major league sports are minimal or zero, and most major league franchise owners enrich themselves at the expense of the cities and regions hosting their teams, many citizens might nonetheless believe major league sports are a good deal." Former Old Dominion President James V. Koch, who is on academic leave this year before his return to the university next fall as Board of Visitors Professor of Economics, secured financial support from Hampton Roads leaders to publish the report.

"In order to improve our situation, we must have accurate knowledge about 'who we are,' and what the policy implications are of the various choices in front of us," he said. "This year's report should be quite helpful in supplying such information. At the end of the day, we hope we have stimulated thought and discussion about things that matter."

Koch emphasized that the report does not represent an "official" viewpoint of Old Dominion or President Roseann Runte.

This article was posted on: November 7, 2001

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