Together, Hampton Roads and Richmond would be one of the top 20 largest metro areas in the U.S.
But the first step to collaboration is an introduction.
Tom Frantz and Ted Chandler are leading a new initiative to potentially make a megaregion a reality.
Over two days – Oct. 16-17 – leaders from both areas will take a firsthand look at each region’s assets. The goal is to jump-start conversations and collaboration that could lead to the creation of a megaregion.
The initiative began about a decade ago.
“We had great meetings but we never really rolled up our sleeves and did any work,” said Frantz, who also serves in executive roles with Reinvent Hampton Roads and the Hampton Roads Business Roundtable.
This spring, Frantz said Richmond-area leaders supported a push to launch a funded, staffed collaborative effort exploring inter-regional economic opportunities.
“We have carefully curated leaders from each region with an eye toward including the volunteer and professional leadership of all key business organizations that should be at the table,” Chandler said in an email. “Previous efforts at regional cooperation have not always been broad-based enough.”
Frantz, who also is chairman emeritus of the board of the Williams Mullen law firm, echoed that sentiment.
“I think that we both have seen that we’re better off getting opportunities for the combined regions than we are by being insular and not even being invited to the dance because we’re too small,” Frantz said.
The Hampton Roads Community Foundation and the Greater Richmond Chamber Foundation are funding the initiative. The Hampton Roads Chamber, Virginia Peninsula Chamber and Chamber RVA also are supporting the project.
“If we market ourselves as one megaregion to the rest of the world, it would certainly give us greater opportunities,” said Hampton Roads Chamber President and CEO Bryan Stephens.
In Southeastern Virginia, the itinerary includes visits to The Port of Virginia, downtown Norfolk and Newport News Shipbuilding. The lineup of featured speakers is expected to include Craig Quigley of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding and Brian Ball, Virginia’s secretary of commerce.
Chandler said the Richmond segment will focus on the Richmond Port Terminal and land development opportunities near it, downtown redevelopment plans and how Virginia Commonwealth University’s Health System research and innovation is influencing the region. Chandler is a former chairman of the Richmond chamber and co-founder of a Richmond-based venture capital fund.
“I’m very excited to show the Richmond business leadership all of the assets that we have here in Hampton Roads,” Stephens said. “I can’t wait to show them the impact that our military has on the region, how important the port is to our economic development, the power of tourism here.”
And in turn, Stephens said, the leaders from Southeast Virginia will learn firsthand about Richmond’s economic and workforce initiatives.
With a population of about 1.7 million, Hampton Roads is America’s 37th largest metro area. Richmond is No. 44, and has a population of about 1.2 million. If combined, the hypothetical new metro area would be the 17th largest in the U.S.
“There’s a move toward bigger regions in the country and there has been for quite a while,” Frantz said.
In terms of size, a hypothetical Hampton Roads-Richmond metropolitan statistical area would rank near Denver and Tampa.
“The business leadership in Hampton Roads and the Richmond region each believe that an active and engaged collaboration will allow us to jointly pursue much more impactful opportunities than either region simply acting alone,” Chandler said.
Photo credit: John McDonnell, Washington Post
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