In their annual State of the Region report, Old Dominion University experts predict that Norfolk’s economy may finally turn the corner.
“For the first time in several years, our primary regional economic building blocks are starting to fall into place and better times appear to be on the horizon,” economists Robert McNab, Vinod Agarwal, and James Koch wrote in the annual report.
For one, the area has never had more people employed: 821,101 were working in July, compared to the previous high of 813,274 in July 2008.
However, as of August, the region still hadn’t regained all the jobs it lost during the nearly 10 years spent reeling from the recession and later sequestration despite the rest of Virginia and the U.S. driving past that mile marker years ago. The median household income is no longer falling and has remained relatively flat for some time, leveling out to $61,805 recently.
Every year since 2005, Hampton Roads has had more people move out than move in. Since 2010, that deficit amounted to 41,540 people. The number of people in their prime working age, 25-54, has grown at a far slower rate in Hampton Roads’ seven cities between 2010 and 2015.
There’s also little to no financial incentive for workers to move to Hampton Roads, or stay once they’re there as wages remain relatively low compared to other metro areas.
In June, Time Magazine reported that Hampton Roads led metropolitan areas in attracting millennials between 2010 and 2015. The story, using data compiled by the Urban Land Institute, claimed the number of people between 25 and 34 moving to the Virginia Beach-Norfolk metropolitan area grew by 16.4 percent, the most of any metropolitan area.
The best way for Norfolk to grow is to capitalize on its proximity to NASA research facilities while investing in education, training, and transportation. There’s also the city’s potential pursuit of Amazon’s second headquarters.
One thing is for certain, the city is definitely trying.