Recently the Hampton Roads Community Foundation has created an initiative called Reinvent Hampton Roads to increase economic opportunities and entrepreneurship with a focus on convincing established companies to relocate here. Since 1950, HRCF has donated 230 million dollars towards such non-profits as Hurrah Players and the Up Center. Their grants support the arts, public schools, libraries and various charities. These efforts are important, but I fail to see how an organization that only helps businesses that do not pay income taxes and only pay about 5% of their staff really help the economy of any region. Voluntary and prison slave labor was a paradigm of the socialist regimes that terrorized the Cold War Era. Free Market Economies are based on free enterprise and so should our economy.
We need grants and angel investments that support start-ups and early-stage companies founded by local people for locally and internationally-based business endeavors. The 757 Angels Group says that their purpose is to fund businesses that will “derive the majority of revenues from sources outside of Hampton Roads.” Why do they charge people $100 to tell them that they don’t fit the criteria of not being focused on customers outside of our area? Why can’t they just give their funding to the best ideas and concepts instead?
Several movies have been filmed here over the past 3 decades such as Mission Impossible III and Captain Phillips, but no one feels like setting-up a company here to make it a real home for movie and TV making. Book and music publishing companies are also surprisingly absent from our area as well. The only record companies I am aware of only release hip hop and R&B and haven’t made any singles or albums that people have purchased or streamed in any great number. Most rock, pop, R&B, hip hop, country, and blues artists here struggle to be heard on local radio stations or to get national attention.
So what will it take to reinvent Hampton Roads? It will take money being available to internet, bio tech, media, entertainment and major league sports enterprises. The new arena slated to be built in Virginia Beach will be a great addition, but more is needed to make a change that we can believe in because it is real and tangible. Reinvention is something that artists like Madonna and David Bowie are attributed with, so then you should understand why I think we need bolder initiatives then what has been presented thus far. Asking established companies to relocate to set-up factories here and giving money for certain reasons only sounds like the same ole thing. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I have a plan for a new local search engine that will list business, real estate, jobs, coupons, events and classifieds listings all together. It is called www.757pages.com. I’m looking for a partner or partners to make it a success for myself and the region. That is exactly what every concerned citizen needs to learn how to do – work together with the smartest and most inspired people to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. That is what it will take to truly Reinvent Hampton Roads.
As a lifelong resident of the region known as Hampton Roads, I have always had a slight distaste for the term. I understand why people here want a regional name to lump 9 cities, 4 towns and 7 counties together, but I don’t think anyone outside of Southeastern Virginia has ever been able to grasp the concept. Instead of knowing it to include the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Poquoson and Williamsburg, many confuse it as the city of Hampton alone.
In 1956, the voters of Hampton narrowly rejected a proposal to merge with the city of Newport News and Warwick County. They wanted to call the new city Hampton Roads. Warwick and Newport News merged two years later. In 2012 there was a study conducted to propose the merging of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk into one city that would have become the 10th most populated city in the United States. It would have contained over 1 million people and be the largest in the country in terms of land area with 1000 square miles. Needless to say, it was shot down.
Most residents would agree that the most populated city of every state in America stands alone. That would include the cities of: Virginia Beach, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Honolulu and others. The same applies to the most populated cities in other countries such as: Paris, London, Helsinki, Sydney, Beijing, Toronto, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and you get the picture.
Certain regions in the United States are known by a regional name that is well-known and respected such as the Bay Area for San Francisco and neighboring cities, The Gulf Coast for all the cities of the states that border the Gulf of Mexico and the Twin Cities for Minneapolis and St. Paul. This does not apply to very many places and not many people can name all the cities that fall under these terms. All of the cities, towns and counties in our area would be nearly impossible for outsiders to name.
So why then is the coastal area of Virginia given so many different region names that confuse and obfuscate so many seemingly distinct places as one homogeneous zone? As a resident of Virginia Beach, I will admit to not being very familiar with places like Yorktown, Isle of Wight, Newport News or Williamsburg. All I know about the latter is that it has a historical district that dates back to colonial times and the Bush Gardens amusement park is located within its city limits.
Even with all the different terms and the insistence on ignoring standard protocol for name recognition, I still want this area to succeed and become more economically viable. Norfolk, Hampton and Virginia Beach are the strongest players and the other places sort of tag along. Hampton Roads or the 757 or Coastal Virginia is too nebulous, but it’s what we have so I believe we should make the best of it. All efforts to create a more well-known area should be implemented by all of the players in business and politics for the betterment of us all.
I grew-up during the Mayor Meyera Oberndorf era or should I say epoch. She was a sweet little woman of 5 feet and the city's favorite Jewish mother; no disrespect to the venue, The Jewish Mother. The economy was strong in America and no one in the city could be bothered to ride a public bus. The lightrail was voted down by the people and MTV still played Total Request Live pop, rock and Rap City music videos. I watched a lot of pop, rock and rap videos on MTV. Everyone I knew at Salem High School had their own car or at least had access to their parent's auto. Our lil' group was either riding in a red Ford pickup truck or beige Infinity when we rolled through the streets of Hampton Roads.
I graduated at age seventeen, but for some strange reason I never got my license until I was 18. I made-up for lost time by driving every single place I went to for the next 10 years and never walked anywhere. My first car was a rare Oldsmobile coup that lasted 5 years, paid off in three. My second car was an emerald green, sports car with white racing stripes and a spoiler. My friends and I took roadtrips almost every weekend during the college years. We visited Virginia State University when one of my boys was dating a girl there. I and my best friend went to a wrestling camp in the Appalachian Mountains when he wanted to become a wrestler in a minor league. We hung out down at the VB oceanfront at places like the teen club/arcade, Club Zoids, before The Dome was demolished and ran out of gas on Atlantic Avenue together too.
My high school experience consisted of lots of time practicing classical trumpet in concert band, marching band rehearsals; concert and marching band competition performances around the state of Virginia. "The Band" got awarded in Lynchburg with the top trophy for our classical music excellence. When I could squeeze it in, I went to classes. Being late for 1st bell (period) was a usual occurrence and my grades suffered from lack of student participation syndrome which my earlier self who made honor roll 25 plus times would have found difficult to recognize. I also performed and recorded some songs with an intelligent style rap group, but I didn't have any production credits - I just wrote lyrics and did vocals. We performed in Norfolk at NSU and some local clubs on Granby Street that are long dead and gone. We did solo gigs and opened up for national acts like Large Professor and Busta Rhymes.