FOURTH ANNUAL "STATE OF THE REGION" REPORT EXAMINES ECONOMY, RESEARCH AND MORE
A variety of issues, from the economy and private social services to the impact of military retirees and research and development at Eastern Virginia Medical School, are examined in Old Dominion University's fourth annual "State of the Region" report, a publication produced by the university's Regional Studies Institute.
The 152-page report also looks at how Hampton Roads compares to other metropolitan areas in terms of various economic, social and educational variables; the pros and cons of consolidating public services in the region; the impact of state mandates on the area's cities and counties; and how different cities in the region approach the subsidization of new housing and commercial development.
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 would be 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. Given the region's strong connections to the military, this year's report focuses on the contributions of veterans to Hampton Roads and on the economic impact of the war in Iraq on our regional economy."
Among the report's findings are:
*Over the past year, Hampton Roads led the commonwealth's economy, experiencing growth while most other regions in Virginia did not. Contributing to this economic well-being were increased defense expenditures on personnel, materiel, and shipbuilding and repair. Tourism also proved to be an important stimulant, as did the Port of Hampton Roads. Additionally, the region's housing market performed well: homeownership surged and the area avoided a real estate price bubble.
*While Hampton Roads is doing better economically than the nation as a whole, significant racial income differences exist within the region. Black residents earn less in Hampton Roads relative to white residents than is the case in the rest of the nation. Closing the gap between the region's black residents and black citizens nationally, and between blacks and whites within the region, would have a positive influence upon Hampton Roads' economic prosperity and standing. This, the report suggests, should command the attention of the region's decision-makers.
*In the chapter on Private Social Services, which looks at the good work of the region's various United Way agencies, the report notes that United Way of South Hampton Roads provides an excellent example for others to follow. Besides implementing successful annual fund-raising campaigns, UWSHR posts its annual reports, the results of its audits, its financial controls and data concerning its overhead costs on its Web site.
*Approximately 53,000 retired military personnel reside in Hampton Roads, a number that has grown by nearly 25 percent since 1990, and a population that gives the area both a significant economic boost and a skilled labor force. The report offers suggestions for keeping this valuable population in the region and perhaps attracting even more military retirees. The suggestions range from financial incentives from the state to the establishment of Military Transition Centers by cities and counties in the region.
*In the chapter on Research and Development at Eastern Virginia Medical School, the report estimates the current annual economic impact of EVMS to be $630 million, and notes that the school's R&D involvement is responsible for $71 million of that economic impact and 1,051 jobs in the region. The report calls upon regional leaders and the Hampton Roads legislative delegation to help the school expand its research and development. Among the suggestions are for the commonwealth to double its $13.2 million funding by the year 2010 and to subsidize or pay for the construction of R&D facilities at the school.
*In examining the feasibility of consolidating public services in Hampton Roads, the report advocates combining four services - education, water distribution, transportation and libraries - in order to realize cost and efficiency gains. On the other hand, the report notes that evidence discourages consolidation in law enforcement, garbage collection and mental health services.
*The report advocates that both the commonwealth and localities sponsor studies to determine the actual costs of state mandates. This would allow localities to provide hard evidence of the burdens they face, which would result in legislators being in a position to make more rational decisions. The studies, the report advises, should focus especially on mandates already imposed, "as they clearly produce the greatest ongoing fiscal burden."
*The report devotes one of its chapters to an examination of new housing and commercial development subsidies and asks the question: Are subsidies in the region being handled fairly? The report suggests that the General Assembly must make it possible for cities and counties to assess impact fees and, as they choose, to take into account the entire development picture of a city in a dynamic sense. It further argues that, even if better legislation is not forthcoming, cities and counties must do a better job evaluating the true costs associated with residential and commercial developments. Finally, the report recommends that the current proffer system be used more extensively.
A copy of the report can be obtained by calling (757) 683-3114.
This article was posted on: October 3, 2003
Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations
Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.