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Class of 2014 Visits Hampton Roads

As you enter the region, one cannot miss the Hampton Roads' region's close association with the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. Many of us traveled through a tunnel to get to the Norfolk World Trade Center, even if you live here. Those tunnels are our lifeblood, and as you drive through them, it is always interesting to note a cargo vessel with 1000+ TEUs (shipping containers), aircraft carrier or a submarine sailing by. The cargo ships are on their way to the Port of Virginia and the naval vessels are coming to or from the largest naval base in the continental United States. The topography of the region, easily noticeable by those from Virginia's more mountainous regions, is quite simply flat. The perks of the water and completely flat land include the beaches.

Our first speaker did a remarkable job of detailing the counties and cities comprising Hampton Roads (formally Tidewater, comprised of the Peninsula and Southside). Forthcoming is a change to "Coastal Virginia." His summation--Hampton Roads serves as a case study for a failure to adopt regionalism to any degree that would be considered successful. The most glaring example is the inability to coordinate to recruit more Fortune 500 companies and major league sports teams. John Paris provided a raucous presentation about the views the residents of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, and Newport News have about themselves and their neighbors. A dynamic discussion was held regarding prospective solutions.

The CEO of the Port of Virginia, John Reinhart, joined us for an impromptu welcome that led into a discussion of the Port by its CFO, Rodney Oliver, '11. The Port has numerous properties throughout Virginia. Once delivered by cargo vessels, things then move as follows: 4% by barge, 34% rail, 62% truck - for a total of 2.2 million TEUs in 2013. China is the port of Virginia's largest export and import partner. Commonwealth-wide Port contributions include 340,000 jobs, $41 billion in revenue, and $1.2 billion in local and state taxes. Alan Shaw, '09, Norfolk Southern Corporation VP of Intermodal Operations, provided an in-depth intermodal (vessels, trains, trucks) discussion highlighted by how regulatory changes have affected of the key commodity they transport - coal.

Our evening on Thursday included an amazing tour of the Norfolk/Portsmouth waterfront on the Carrie B. Complete with a stunning sunset, our group was able to clearly see the role shipping, logistics, and ship repair play in the fabric of Hampton Roads.

Friday morning started at the Newport News Shipbuilding's VASCIC Building. Danny Hunley, VP of Operations, detailed the region's Workforce Development overview and the proactive role NNS takes with the Apprentice School. Rear Vice Admiral David Architzel discussed sequestration's effect on the region's economy.

Many participants had experienced the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and now had the opportunity to take the "royal tour." What it lacked in ambiance it made up for in an upfront and personal lesson in critical infrastructure.

Our tour of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel was followed by lunch at the Norfolk Naval Officer's Club. While on the Norfolk Naval Station, a bus tour of the base station included rows of ships, E2 Hawkeyes, 20+ symbolic homes built at the turn of the 20th century by states.

Touring the U.S.S. Anzio was remarkable, whether one considers the size of the vessel, the armaments, or the crew. Our escorts managed to truly convey what life is like on the modern naval vessel in the time we had to visit with them.

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center welcomed us with the temptation of learning about Virginia's marshland or being dared by the high wind adventure park. John Quarstein is quite simply incomparable. He breathes life into history in a unique way that melds the various tendrils of history that quite literally leaves the listener exhilarated and breathless. Dinner at Mahi Mah's seems a most fitting way to close out a long day, with the famed Virginia Beach oceanfront scant feet away, begging to be strolled.

Saturday started out at Landstown High School: Governor's STEM & Technology Academy with a delightful breakfast prepared by the school's culinary arts students and hosted by Principal Dr. Brian Matney, '12. We then heard from Dr. Aaron Spence, the Superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, about the importance of collaboration and the state of education in the nation. Warren Harris, the Director of Virginia Beach Economic Development, provided an overview of the regional economy and the importance of growth and development in the area. Dr. Cynthia Romero, the Director of EVMS M. Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health, presented compelling information on healthcare in the region and the link between health, quality of life, and economic development. Our last panel of the session focused on education in the region and featured speakers from Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Horizons Hampton Roads, ACCESS College Foundation, and the United Way of South Hampton Roads. This discussion and the passion of each of the panelists resonated strongly with every class member and was a truly uplifting look at what cooperation in the region is able to accomplish.

Contributed by: Chris Stuart, Vice President, Top Guard Security; Class of 2014

We greatly appreciate the support of our 2014 Hampton Roads Session Sponsors: Cox Communications and Columbia Gas of Virginia. We would also like to recognize Norfolk Southern for their contribution to our 2014 Hampton Roads session.