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State of the Region Report Examines Issues from Local Economy to Light Rail

Old Dominion University's 11th annual State of the Region report, released on Wednesday, Oct. 6, examines a wide array of Hampton Roads issues, ranging from the state of the economy to light rail.

Published by ODU's Regional Studies Institute, the report also looks at the regional markets for office and industrial space, and compares the Port of Virginia to its competitors on the East Coast.

In addition, the 166-page publication issues a report card on Vision Hampton Roads' "dashboard" of critical performance variables in areas such as education and the economy. It also examines partisan politics in the region, and goes inside two of the area's top attractions to see how they're doing and what changes are forthcoming: the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and the Chrysler Museum of Art. Finally, the report considers the state of cinema in Hampton Roads, exploring its history and speculating on its future.

James V. Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics and President Emeritus, serves as editor of the report, which received financial support from Old Dominion and a number of local organizations and individuals. Koch notes that the report does not constitute an official viewpoint of the university.

"The State of the Region reports maintain the goal of stimulating thought and discussion that ultimately will make Hampton Roads an even better place to live," he said. "We are proud of our region's many successes, but realize it is possible to improve our performance. In order to do so, we must have accurate information about 'where we are' and a sound understanding of the policy options available to us."

The 2010 report is divided into nine parts. Among its findings are:

• We are slowly recovering from the worldwide recession. However, both the port and tourism are sputtering and defense spending may decelerate in the future.

• Vacancy rates are high, especially for industrial space, and lease rates have fallen. Times are tough and may remain so for the foreseeable future.

• Over the past decade, the Port of Virginia has slipped to third place on the East Coast behind Savannah, Ga. Perhaps we can reverse this by means of Norfolk Southern Corp.'s Heartland Corridor and the recent lease acquisition of the APM Maersk facility in Portsmouth.

• Building The Tide hasn't bankrupted Norfolk because of significant federal funding. Paying to operate The Tide, however, could be quite painful if the experience of other regions provides a clue.

• All things considered, the Chrysler Museum of Art, our regional cultural treasure, is doing well as it adjusts to new financial and cultural realities.

• Despite attracting 700,000 visitors annually, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is not familiar to many people. However, it is positioned to play a role in the economic development of a key area of Virginia Beach.

• The "movies" have been turned upside down over the past half century by television, the Internet, movie rentals and changing customer tastes. It may not necessarily be a good time to be in the movie house business, but it is a superb time to watch an unprecedented variety of movies.

• Once dominated by Democrats and more recently by Republicans, Hampton Roads has become a swing region politically. Currently, we are disadvantaged by an absence of legislator seniority in Richmond and Washington.

• Vision Hampton Roads' "dashboard" of critical performance variables, which helps us determine how we really are doing in areas such as education and the economy, contains a report card of mixed grades.

The 2010 State of the Region report, as well as the reports from 2000 through 2009, can be found on the Web at www.odu.edu/forecasting. Single paper copies may be purchased for $25 at www.jamesvkoch.com.

This article was posted on: October 6, 2010

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