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A variety of issues, from the economy and public social services to daily newspapers and religion, are examined in Old Dominion University's third annual "State of the Region" report, a publication produced by the university's Regional Studies Institute.

The 122-page report also looks at the economic impact of Sept. 11 on Hampton Roads, the regional distribution of income and taxes.

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

"Our 'State of the Region' reports maintain the modest goal of making 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 the region's performance.

"Yet, in order to improve our performance, we must have accurate information about 'where we are' and a sound understanding of the policy options available to us. This year's report places particular emphasis upon providing up-to-date information on how Hampton Roads compares to other regions nationally."

In the first section of the report, Hampton Roads is compared to other metropolitan areas on everything from the economy to quality of life.

Among the findings are:

*Of the more than 300 metropolitan areas in the United States, Hampton Roads ranks 45th, as measured by its gross regional product. The region's economy is among the top 15 percent of U.S. metropolitan economies.

*The region ranks 33rd, or in the top 10 percent, among 315 U.S. metropolitan areas in proportional high-tech employment.

*Hourly wages in Hampton Roads for workers who are not in the military are about 10 percent below the national average and about 16 percent below the Richmond metropolitan area.

*Hampton Roads, in the fashion of many Southern metropolitan areas, lags the nation in spending per capita for primary and secondary (K-12) schools.

*The quality of health care in Hampton Roads trails many other regions when viewed in terms of a plausible national index. Hampton Roads scores an 86 on a scale with the national average being 100.

While the report found the effects of the Sept. 11 attacks on the region's economy to be "surprisingly minor," it predicts serious consequences for the local economic picture if the country were to invade Iraq. Noting that such an event could result in the departure of up to 27,000 active-duty service personnel, the report states, "In contrast to Sept. 11, this impact would not be small. Total spending in the region would fall by about $500 million on an annual basis. This would reduce the growth rate of regional product by one full percentage point. Without question, this is an event that nearly all sectors of Hampton Roads would feel, directly or indirectly."

The report also touts its section on public social services as "a 'must read'" for all who want to make Hampton Roads a better place to live." The section looks primarily at financial assistance services, or benefit programs.

In its section on taxes, the report offers some suggestions for change, such as having the state treat cities such as Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News the same as it does Richmond with regard to their relatively large amount of tax-exempt, government property. "Richmond receives significant funding from the commonwealth because it is unable to
tax the considerable amount of state property located within its city limits," the report points out.

This section also notes, "Consider the looming possibility of an increase in the general sales tax within the Hampton Roads region in order to pay for vital transportation projects. Is this the best way to generate the needed revenue" Most economists would say 'no,' and would instead support a user tax on gasoline."

In his letter to readers at the beginning of the 2002 "State of the Region" report, Koch concludes, "Our hope is the report will stimulate you to think further about Hampton Roads and that it will generate discussion about our region's future."

For a copy of the report call 757-683-3114.

This article was posted on: October 25, 2002

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.