Megaregion highlights year’s first Peninsula Executive Leadership Forum

Megaregion highlights year’s first Peninsula Executive Leadership Forum


virginia-newThe creation of a megaregion extending from Richmond to the Hampton Roads oceanfront would be an economic boon that would attract federal funding for infrastructure, create jobs and enhance connectivity to world markets.

That message was delivered by Thomas R. Frantz, CEO and Chairman of the Williams Mullen law firm, to over 60 business leaders on Friday, February 20 at the Peninsula Executive Leadership Forum. The event was presented by the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and Thomas Nelson Community College.

Speaking on the creation of the proposed megaregion, Frantz touted the benefits of aligning the Hampton Roads and Richmond metropolitan statistical areas into one informal but noteworthy designation.

What Frantz envisions as the “Virginia Global Gateway” megaregion would be the 16th most populous region in the U.S. with 3 million residents, garnering attention from investors from around the world.

“We would get a lot more looks and a lot more business,” Frantz said.


Megaregion benefits

Frantz described several key benefits for a megaregion designation to include:

—A stronger ability to secure federal funding for infrastructure development. A program that awards grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation targets regions that demonstrate collaboration;

—A greater connectivity of workers, visitors and freight that boosts links to world markets. Approximately 85 percent of high-speed rail investment by the federal government in 2010 was concentrated in six regions that encompass major megaregions. “We need to be part of that to have a greater chance for infrastructure investment,” Frantz said;

—An enhanced ability to attract corporate investment that anticipates job creation. A national real estate database recently noted that 99 percent of institutional investment in commercial real estate was with 11 megaregions, Frantz said;

—Larger corporate advertising expenditures. The largest spending on advertising is concentrated in the top 25 regions, Frantz said.

Aligning the Hampton Roads and Richmond regions wouldn’t mean consolidation or acquisitions. Existing local governments and economic development authorities would retain autonomy.

Frantz envisions more collaboration among the region’s 34 universities, colleges and two-year institutions and industries with common markets such as health care. Working together can make the region stronger on a world stage than individually. “We need to be thinking more about what we can do together,” Frantz said.


The Port of Virginia’s importance

A linchpin to the success of the Virginia Global Gateway megaregion is the Port of Virginia, the fifth-largest in the U.S. and the third-largest container port on the East Coast. With authorization — though it’s unfunded — to dredge the shipping channel to 55 feet to accommodate the world’s biggest container ships, the Port of Virginia would have a strategic advantage over the East Coast’s shallower ports that include Charleston, S.C., New York and New Jersey and Baltimore, Frantz said.

When it comes to shipping, “size matters and we’re on the way to being able to handle the size,” Frantz said.

Improving transportation infrastructure such as widening Interstate 64, expanding rail capacity and other improvements are critical for the expected increase in the volume of goods into the port, he said.


Other competitive advantages

An available workforce with 13,000 trained and disciplined workers leaving the military annually is an advantage for the region.

“We’d like to keep more of them here,” Frantz said.

With nine of Virginia’s 20 largest corporations headquartered in Richmond and Hampton Roads, a strong technology presence and complementary industries such as health care and banking are also a draw.

“We have to be big and bold in our thinking,” Frantz said. “What we’re talking about is something that helps everybody, elevates everybody.”

The next steps for creating a megaregion include the creation on March 3 of an umbrella organization, launching a website and hiring an executive director to carry the message to local governments, business and industry, politicians and other stakeholders, Frantz said.


ABOUT THE VIRGINIA PENINSULA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (VPCC) serves the Cities of Newport News, Hampton and Poquoson; and James City County and York County.

VPCC is a business association that “Connects Business with Opportunity” through Facilitation, Advocacy, Communication and Education.

In addition to helping lead the business community on public policy impacting the Virginia Peninsula workforce, the VPCC hosts a series of programs, including the annual State of the City events for Newport News, Hampton and Poquoson; the Peninsula Executive Leadership Forum; Military Day, Job Fair and Recognition Luncheon; Young Entrepreneurs Academy; Pink Bag Lunches; and Business Connections, in addition to numerous business roundtables. As of 2013, YEA! Has graduated 1,394 students who have started over 1,000 businesses and social movements.

The VPCC is located at 21 Enterprise Parkway, Suite 100 in Hampton. For more information, call 757.262.2000 or email [email protected].

Connect to the VPCC online at and via LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.



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