With 1,000 people in attendance, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City series kicked off with the Norfolk address on February 17 at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott. Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim provide an update on the city’s recent accomplishments and agenda for the year to come.
The mayor explained that the budget in fiscal year 2011 had a $11 million surplus and added that they project the 2012 budget will end with a surplus of more than $8 million.
According to the 2010 census, the city’s population grew by 8,400 people – a 3.6% increase.
The mayor said, “Norfolk continues to lead the region in total average compensation per job. “The average compensation, that’s wages and benefits, is $72,696. And there are nearly 213,000 jobs in Norfolk – one for every adult resident.”
“Last year, Belgian global logistics provider KTN invested $12 million for a warehousing and distribution operation on a portion of the former Ford Assembly Plant site,” said Fraim. He added, “When fully staffed, it will create about 200 jobs.” In addition, Los Angeles-based AECOM will bring its regional headquarters and 155 employees with compensation packages averaging $99,000, to the Wells Fargo Center. And Urban Outfitters, a specialty retailer, will soon arrive in downtown and occupy a 14,000 square foot, three floor space on Granby Street. Continuing on the topic of economic developments, Fraim explained that beginning this summer, a new $18 million shopping center to be anchored by a Harris Teeter will be coming to Wards Corner.
The mayor discussed the Waterside Marketplace, saying, “We first sought the public’s input. We learned many want it maintained as a family-oriented destination with dining, shopping and entertainment. Next, we sought proposals from developers. Last month, they were shared with the public. The manager is preparing to make a recommendation to the Council, after which we will seek additional public comment.”
Light rail has been running through Norfolk for six months, and the mayor reported that, “work-week ridership has averaged 4,650 a day – far exceeding the original FTA projection of 2,900 and proving light rail to be a viable transportation alternative. Fraim said, “A little discussed fact, is that of the $317 million cost, our federal and state partners have paid 83%. The City contributed but 17 cents of every dollar – an excellent leverage of local funds. From its conception it was planned to be a regional transit system.” Mayor Fraim encouraged the other southside city mayors in the audience to welcome the Tide into their cities.
Fraim then discussed inter-city passenger rail service. “With $114 million in state funding and the agreement and cooperation of Norfolk Southern and CSX, improvements along the alignment to Petersburg and Richmond are ahead of schedule. This will allow passenger service from Norfolk to Washington and points north to begin this December – nearly a year earlier than projected.”
The expansion of the Mid-town Tunnel has been a priority for the region for decades. A $2.1 billion agreement was reached between the Commonwealth and Elizabeth River Crossings to build a second tunnel, with construction planned to begin by end of this year. Fraim said, “Many do not agree with tolls. But we pay a toll for doing nothing – a toll on our economic activity, a toll on our air quality, a toll on our time spent away from our loved ones while stuck in traffic, and a toll on gas guzzled idling in backups.”
Mayor Fraim closed by saying, “I can say with confidence that the state of our city is sound.”
The Chamber's State of the City Series has become the preferred forum for elected officials and mayors to communicate with their constituents and are often sold out events. The State of the City addresses are annual updates of each city's progress over the past year and agenda for the year to come. Each address is held in the featured city and is given by the mayor of that city. This event is a forum for interaction among leaders in attendance.
Remaining schedule for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce State of the City Series (all luncheons begin at 12pm):
Chesapeake: Thursday, February 23, Chesapeake Conference Center
Virginia Beach: Wednesday, March 14, Virginia Beach Convention Center
Portsmouth: Wednesday, April 4, Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel & Waterfront Conference Center
Suffolk: Tuesday, May 8, Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront Hotel & Conference Center
For reservations, visit Events.HamptonRoadsChamber.com or call 757-622-2312. Thanks to Series Sponsors: TowneBank (Presenting); Bon Secours Virginia Health Systems (Platinum); Cox Communications (Media); Farm Fresh Inc. and Optima Health (Silver).