The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce brought together 33 elected officials, October 23 to provide its members with one-on-one access.
The annual event drew more than 150 Chamber members to the Town Center City Club in Virginia Beach for the forum with the largest number of elected officials at a single Chamber event this year.
Ahead of the General Assembly Session that opens January, the reception is deemed an important part of the Chamber’s overall advocacy sessions, according to President and CEO, Bryan K. Stephens, who welcomed the legislators to the members.
“An integral component of the Chamber’s mission is to communicate the views of the business community to our elected officials. Our role is to support legislation and other governmental action that promotes a strong business climate and job growth opportunities,” said Stephens. “We have achieved legislative successes working in partnership with our allies in the business community. Through our advocacy efforts, we will continue to be the ‘voice of business’ for Hampton Roads.”
The Chamber presented a draft of its 2015 legislative priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session through a PowerPoint presentation. The focus in the legislative package includes business climate and economic development; education and workforce development; technology; transportation; military and Veteran affairs.
Providing remarks as presenting sponsor, Gary McCollum, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Cox Virginia, was direct in assessing the political hurdles the region must clear in order to achieve many of its communal goals.
“The major issue we have is we are not together. We are divided. We are divided as a region. When you look at other places around the state and around the country those regions are coming together. We’re divided by our politics, we’re divided by our socioeconomic standing, we’re divided by geography” said McCollum adding, “We’re divided by so many things, but despite that, I am absolutely hopeful that we’re going to do the right thing. We’re going to have the smarts to tackle our present day challenges and we’re going to have the courage to tackle our long-range challenges. Let it be said of us that we did the right thing to make sure that the quality of life for those children, our children and our grandchildren, will be better than they quality of life that we have today. I am hopeful that we’re going to be able to do it.”
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce works as a business advocate in local and state government and works closely with elected officials to create economic prosperity and enhance the quality of life. Events such as the Legislative Reception allow Chamber members to gain access to decision makers, get involved in business issues that impact the community, and develop the plans necessary to achieve regional prosperity.
Dorcas Helfant-Browning, Managing Partner and Principal Broker with Coldwell Banker and Chair and State Board for Community Colleges for Virginia Community College System echoed McCullom’s thoughts on embracing a regional approach, “Northern Virginia’s been cleaning our clock in terms of benefits. We need to have more regional cooperation. I heard the term ‘Team Hampton Roads’ and I was ready to cheer for that one!”
“It has always been a great event, but this year it really is such a notch higher than its been,” said Angie Bezik, Government Affairs Director with Williams Mullen. “We’ve had so many people come from the Peninsula which is great as the Hampton Roads Chamber wants to make sure everyone is engaged, and my plan, being a member of the Virginia Beach board, is to make sure that next year we have even more people come so we look forward to the best representation we can have up there.”
Like the members, the legislators and their staffs enjoy the opportunity to engage with constituents each year at this event, according to Shannon Kendrick, Congressman Scott Rigell’s District Director.
“It’s so great to be able to come to an event such as this that draws so many of our local leaders, community leaders, city leaders, state leaders the whole contingency is all in one room,” said Kendrick. “It helps to remind us how lucky we are to have such great leadership in Hampton Roads.”
Raymond Willis Jr., CEO of Heritage Capital Group and board member for the Portsmouth division, the Hampton Roads Business Political Action Committee and Regional Board, was gratified by the turnout.
“This is an excellent event. It’s a great opportunity to thank all of our legislators for what they do up at the General Assembly, but also have a good time and network with everyone, said Willis. “It’s nice that the business folks can interact with some of our legislative leaders. We have all the way to the state level, to the secretary of transportation Aubrey Layne, to the local level, to even our senators and our national leaders, with Congressman Bobby Scott, so it’s good to say one, thank you, but also let the networking continue.”
Thanks to event sponsors Cox Communications (Presenting); Bon Secours Virginia Health System and Sentara Optima Health Plan (Gold); Kitco Fiber Optics (Silver) STIHL Inc. (Bronze); and Endurance IT Services and McGuireWoods LLP (Program). In addition, the Chamber thanks its 2014 Legislative Partners: Williams Mullen (Gold); Clark Nexsen, Architecture & Engineering and Verizon Communications (Silver).