The guest speaker at the Chamber’s October 19 Norfolk Division Board meeting was Norfolk’s Mayor Paul Fraim. Nearly 20 business leaders listened to Mayor Fraim provide updates on a variety of topics affecting Norfolk’s citizens and business community.
Fraim said, “Despite the economic recession, the city has come through the recession. We’ve done better than most.” He is proud to say that a majority of the region’s jobs are in Norfolk, adding that the city’s unemployment is at 9%. In the past 10 years, the city has grown 3.6%, much due to the military presence.
Transportation is an important issue for the city, which launched its light rail system in August 2011. He said, “5,263 people rode light rail yesterday, and 4,873 the day before that.” These numbers are higher than originally projected, which is good news for the city and Hampton Roads Transit. Fraim feels that there is a “coming together of the region” with the addition of light rail and it’s bringing additional businesses and residents to the downtown area. He would like to see light rail extend into Virginia Beach, at least to the Town Center area of the city. He told the group that at this time next year, the midtown tunnel will be under construction, bringing additional opportunities to the region. Fraim mentioned that in the next year the city will see an increased number of cruise ships arriving and departing, as well as high speed passenger rail connecting the region to Richmond and Washington, DC. “This will solidify Norfolk as the economic center for this region.”
Future city plans include the creation of a Veterans Affairs Commission. Fraim said, “I want Norfolk to be the best place to do military business.”