A success for regional cooperation

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005

The Virginian-Pilot and The Daily Press reported sensational news for Hampton Roads last week – the merger of the Peninsula and Southside economic development alliances. On March 1st, one entity, the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, will represent our entire region nationally and internationally to prospective businesses.

The Hampton Roads Partnership, representing business, academic, military, and labor leaders as well as 17 cities and counties, salutes all participants in this important step to make our region stronger in the fierce competition to attract new business to Hampton Roads.Regional cooperation made this good news happen. Credit is due to many of our local government leaders. Jones Hooks and the board of the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance and Rick Weigel and the board of the Peninsula Economic Development Alliance deserve kudos for a job well done. Throughout the negotiations, the leaders of these groups demonstrated the commitment and support needed to move the merger forward.

In 2003, the Hampton Roads Partnership asked economic development consultant and former Secretary of Commerce and Trade Barry DuVal to study the economic development structure and programs for Virginia and Hampton Roads. His study detailed a plan for improving relations with state economic developers and provided recommendations for an improved structure for successful economic development outcomes. The report suggested that one organization marketing the assets of &uot;One&uot; region was more effective than two competing organizations and reinforced a merger effort that had been going on for several years.

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Our competitors are other regions of the United States and the world, not individual localities within our region. A business bringing new jobs and investment to Hampton Roads benefits all of us … &uot;the rising tide raises all ships&uot; as they say. A unified Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance will enhance our ability to sell the region in the competitive global marketplace by speaking with one voice.

The Hampton Roads business community also deserves a share of the credit. They demonstrate daily that in the highly competitive and changing global economy, the real boundaries are those of commerce, not those of political division. Viewed as &uot;one&uot; region 1.6 million people strong, Hampton Roads represents quite a drawing card.

E. Dana Dickens is president & CEO of the Hampton Roads Partnership and a former mayor of Suffolk.