10 Key Questions and Answers

The 757 Recovery and Resilience Action Framework is a game plan created by and for the 757’s business community to help accelerate the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic — and to do so in a way that builds a more resilient economy that is better prepared to weather future shocks.

Organized around a vision of economic empowerment and growth for all, the Action Framework advances five strategic pillars:

  1. Build Regional Unity
  2. Grow New Jobs
  3. Grow, Retain, and Attract Talent
  4. Build Resiliency
  5. Advance Regional Infrastructure

Each of these pillars includes specific corresponding program areas with concrete goals, action steps, and quantifiable measures to track and report performance.

Some of these program areas detail exciting new ways to advance the region (e.g., recruiting and empowering 757 Champions and developing business resiliency education and training). Meanwhile, other program areas (e.g., business attraction and workforce training) advance important pre-existing efforts that will now be enhanced as part of the Action Framework.

In this way, all of our region’s most imperative economic strategies and programs are now included in one comprehensive approach, which will enable more business leaders in the Hampton Roads region to understand, embrace, and play a key role in advancing the work of the Action Framework.

While regional business organizations will serve as the convener for each of the five strategic pillars and related programs, they are fundamentally responsible for just the content and resources. The real power and ultimate success of the Action Framework rests with those business leaders who will actively support and implement the individual components of the Action Framework. (See question No. 10. How individual business leaders can make a difference as part of the Action Framework).

In addition, this comprehensive approach will provide a way to hold the region accountable for results. The ongoing performance of the Action Framework’s program areas will be tracked and reported on a public-facing performance dashboard. Periodic, region-wide meetings will also be held to report results. 

No question, our Action Framework is needed now — perhaps more than ever. Here’s why:

  • We simply can’t wait. As a region, we are slow to recover from economic shocks. It took the United States and Virginia more than 70 months to recover all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. For Hampton Roads, it took over 100 months to add back jobs lost during the Great Recession, and the economic shock of COVID-19 has been greater.

Through the Action Framework’s busines leader survey, most of Hampton Roads’ executives feel it will take another year before we recover. In all likelihood, we should not expect a full recovery until at least 2022. We must do everything possible to reduce this recovery time through the direct interventions detailed in the Action Framework.

  • There’s no one else on whom we can count. So far, the federal response has not significantly lessened the economic shock of the pandemic, and we cannot expect the federal government to come to our rescue. Similarly, our state and local governments are all having to do more with less.
  • We must prepare now for a new post-COVID-19 economy. COVID-19 has transformed industry after industry. We must now reimagine what recovery will look like in a forever changed world. This is a time to question assumptions and old ways of doing things. It’s time for bold thinking. 
  • We need to build our economic resilience to prepare for coming future shocks. Our recovery needs to be orchestrated in a way that prepares Hampton Roads for future economic shocks — the next pandemic, flooding, sea level rise and military sequestration.
  • We can’t afford to fall behind. Other cities are not waiting for recovery, they are creating it. Across the country, other regions and cities have prepared and are following plans that are guiding their strategic COVID-19 economic recovery. A few examples include:
  • Charlottesville: https://www.cvillechamber.com/blueprint/
  • Atlanta: https://www.investatlanta.com/assets/9.16_updated_final_one_atlanta_plan_bzJWRVg.pdf
  • Chicago: https://www.chicago.gov/content/dam/city/sites/covid/task-force/Chicago%20Recovery%20Task%20Force%20-%20Advisory%20Report.pdf

When COVID-19 hit Hampton Roads, the leading regional business organizations came together as one coalition to help the business community navigate the crisis through a variety of initiatives, which included a series of business leader surveys, informational guides, high-level briefing calls, and the ongoing online www.757Recovery.com forum.

Coalition members included the Hampton Roads Alliance, Reinvent Hampton Roads, Hampton Roads Chamber, Virginia Peninsula Chamber, Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Greater Peninsula Workforce Board, the Old Dominion University Strome College of Business, Norfolk State University, and the CIVIC Leadership Institute.

In the second half of 2020, the coalition embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process to create the Action Framework. The planning process engaged more than 200 business leaders, including 18 thought leaders, 12 subject matter experts, 11 committee Chairs, 11 committee Vice Chairs, 120 committee members, 10 Old Dominion University Strome College of Business student interns, and the assigned staff personnel of coalition partners and a consultant team. More than a thousand business leaders have provided input into the Action Framework through three online surveys, and more business community input will be provided as we enter the final development stages and roll out the Action Framework to the entire business community in March 2021.

In short, the 757 Recovery and Resilience Action Framework is being created by the Hampton Roads business community.

The Action Framework’s 5 core strategic pillars and corresponding 30 programs are hyper-focused on how the Hampton Roads business community can jumpstart the economy while building in greater resiliency for our region to handle future shocks. 

Why just the business community?

We started our planning effort with a broad view of what makes our region work. This includes the symbiosis of many of our region’s industries and the relationship all share with the health of our local economy. As we are all connected, our initial idea was to include every major industry sector in the Action Framework’s design. This could include business, local government, non-profit sector, the local military commands, and more.

Exploring this broad approach raised a key question, what approach  – narrow or broad – offers the best opportunity to make an immediate impact? Answering this question provided three key insights. First, to be most successful, our Action Framework must move at the sound of business. We don’t have time to organize and direct a broad-based movement.  Second, Hampton Roads’ entire business community has rarely, if ever, collectively owned a mission like this – accelerating the recovery of the economy. Owning this effort will be motivational in and off itself.  Third, a hyper-focus on business will not neglect other sectors as everything is connected. After all, a stronger, more resilient economy fosters a growing tax base for local governments, increases the drive and capacity of corporate and private philanthropic donors, and provides greater access to in-demand and high-paying jobs for military family members and transitioning personnel. All of this honed the focus of the Action Framework on the business community and reinforced our appreciation of the old adage that “a rising tide lifts all of the ships in the harbor.”

However, in recognition of the importance of non-business sectors, our planning efforts has kept local government leaders abreast of our planning progress and sought their input. This includes economic development leaders from the 757’s local jurisdictions. In addition, we have also worked closely with the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance (HRMFFA) to keep the military informed.  

In addition, we have tried to keep our regional stakeholders in mind as we created the Action Framework’s programs. For example, we will do everything possible to raise the awareness and  support the regional digital network ring as something that is very important to the region’s military for their future workforce. For the non-profit community, we will actively promote the availability of and participation in our resiliency-oriented implementation programs (e.g., business model planning, diversity, equity, and inclusion training, health and well-being education, and early childcare support).

The Action Framework was designed intentionally from the outset to avoid the pitfalls of previous top-down regional plans, which include lack of comprehensive input, shared visioning, measurable expectations of implementation partners, and the absence of business stakeholders. Because of this planning foresight, our Action Framework is:

  • Inspired and created by over 200 business leaders who served on 11 different committees, business thought leaders, and subject matter experts.  
  • Informed by the voices of over 1,000 other regional business leaders who participated in project-related surveys
  • Guided by our region’s first-ever vision for the economy based on insights from over 5,000 people who participated in recent surveys in the Hampton Roads region
  • Driven by a clear focus — five strategic pillars to achieve our vision for the economy
  • Focused on implementing five to six specific programs under each core strategic pillar
  • Organized by duties and lines of responsibility for our region’s lead business organizations to implement — who does what, and when
  • Held accountable by a public-facing performance dashboard
  • Supported by follow-up meetings where we will report progress
  • Powered by an army of change agents — more than 1,000 business leaders who will actively advance this initiative
  • Rolled out in a way that demonstrates and celebrates success with early wins

In the end, our Action Framework represents a regional playbook that will stay off the shelves and on the desks of business leaders because it truly reflects their experiences with and aspirations for our region.  

The Action Framework is guided by a first-of-its-kind vision for the economy we want to build for the people of the 757. This 2030 vision, simply stated, is:

757 = One​

Economic Empowerment and Growth for All.​

This vision was developed and refined through the work of the Integration Committee, which was charged with pulling together the input from thought leaders, subject matter experts, and the 10 industry and topic area committees (the 11th committee in the Integration Committee).

To arrive at the Action Framework’s vision, the Integration Committee followed a process outlined by SIR, a firm experienced in helping cities and organizations conduct values-based visioning. SIR’s process, whether it’s for a company, organization or entire region, is based on identifying a set of defining characteristics or values held and embraced by key stakeholders — such as a region’s residents in this case.

For the Action Framework, we needed to determine the values we want associated with the Hampton Roads’ economy in 2030. SIR’s process of arriving at those values centered on identifying intersectional insights across three key questions:  

  1. What place-oriented values do residents care about Hampton Roads today?
  2. What makes Hampton Roads unique from other places today?
  3. What defining values will be important to Hampton Roads’ residents tomorrow?

Fortunately for the Integration Committee, a number of recent market research studies conducted in Hampton Roads provided many of the insights we needed. Several years ago, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) conducted a regional values and visioning study. This research, as well as the Envision 2020 Regional Branding Initiative’s research conducted in 2019, addressed the first two questions. SIR’s Institute for Tomorrow research on the trends shaping the future of regions like Hampton Roads then answered the third question. 

The insights from this research led to a final set of key characteristics that are not only valued by Hampton Roads residents today but will become even more important tomorrow:

  • Inclusion & Equity
  • Military Presence
  • Welcoming Community Spirit
  • Innovation & Creativity
  • Coastal Lifestyle
  • One Region Stronger Together

Combining all of these key characteristics, the vision concept came to life through a comprehensive expression of our vision for 757’s economy in 2030:

Our economy is resilient and innovative. Here, we all work together to grow our economy and advance the well-being of all residents. We’re inspired by what we value: a commitment to inclusion and equity, a strong military presence, a welcoming community spirit, and our old salt, new vibe coastal lifestyle, making our region one of a kind, and one for all.

This statement was reduced to its simplest form as:

757 = One​

Economic Empowerment and Growth for All.​

The Integration Committee then used this vision narrative to review, assess, and refine the Action Framework’s strategic pillars, programs, and overall design by asking, in essence, “Will this program help us obtain this vision or not?” This inspired, in part, the Build Regional Unity pillar and the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and minority vendor database programming under the Grow Resiliency pillar.

(Note: The vision development process and related research is well documented in a separate comprehensive PowerPoint report.)

The Action Framework advances five core strategic pillars. The Integration Committee arrived at this set by synthesizing and integrating all of the input generated from thought leaders, subject matter experts, Action Framework committee white papers, and input from the Steering Committee (Coalition Partners).

From these hundreds of pages of supporting research and insights, the Integration Committee arrived at the following five core strategic pillars, along with the supporting rationale behind each one:

  • Build Regional Unity: Throughout the Action Framework research and committee work, a lack of unity was routinely mentioned as a core element that has traditionally held the Hampton Roads region back. As such, the more than 200 business leaders who worked on the Action Framework unanimously agreed that building regional unity was THE prerequisite for economic recovery and resilience.
  • Grow New Jobs: By every account, economic empowerment and growth for all comes down to generating not only more jobs but better, higher paying jobs.
  • Grow, Retain, and Attract Talent: It’s not enough simply to create new jobs. For a region to recover and flourish, new and available jobs must be filled by qualified talent, which often requires education, training, and continued workforce development. With the coming tech-enabled automation, well-choreographed reskilling, also known as up-skilling, will be in greater demand. In order to deliver on that demand, we need to invest in the entire talent development pipeline. This includes developing and training those already working in the region, as well as attracting new talent to the area.
  • Grow Resiliency: Most often, we hear “resiliency” being associated with environmental threats and future mitigation strategies. In the Action Framework, we view resiliency as any action that can help mitigate the impact of future shocks that will disrupt our economy, local businesses, nonprofits, and livelihoods. Addressing resiliency from this perspective will require a continuous effort to diversify the 757 economy and educate and train businesses to become more resilient by fortifying their business models, accelerating their diversity and inclusion practices, increasing employee health and well-being, and providing insights on how to access to high-quality early care
  • Advance Regional Infrastructure: A long-term commitment to the development and maintenance of our region’s infrastructure is vital to achieving our vision: 757=One. Economic Empowerment for All.

Regional infrastructure is composed of the basic systems that undergird the structure of our economy. Obvious examples include transportation facilities, telecommunications networks, and sanitary sewer and water supply. Less obvious but equally important components include our transit system, ports, new fiber optic ring, HRSD: SWIFT project, transatlantic cables, and offshore wind facilities. For the Action Framework, we are taking an even broader view of necessary infrastructure by including a sustainable regional branding effort and a business approach to addressing energy needs and sea level rise.  

The chairs and vice chairs of the 10 industry and topic area committees provided the first validation of these five strategic pillars in their review of the Action Framework document.

The final vetting of the strategic pillars is happening now through the review of the draft Action Framework by the more than 200 business leaders who created it — the 18 thought leaders, 12 subject matter experts, 120 committee members, 10 Old Dominion University Strome College of Business interns, and the assigned staff personnel of coalition partners and consultant team.

The five strategic pillars will be supported and advanced through 30 specific implementation programs. Each of these programs has specific goals, action steps, and measures to track and report performance. An example of one program under each strategic pillar includes:

  • Build Regional Unity
    • Build regional pride trough a local pride-building campaign
  • Grow New Jobs
    • Bring new industries to the region such as offshore wind
  • Grow, Retain, and Attract Talent
    • Retain more of the college graduates who graduate from 757-area colleges and universities
  • Build Resiliency
    • Provide businesses with business model planning resources needed to become more nimble, adaptable, and successful in the face of shocks
  • Advance Regional Infrastructure
    • Design and run a national marketing campaign to brand the Hampton Roads region

To arrive at these five program areas above (as well as the other 25 developed as part of the Action Framework), the Integration Committee carefully reviewed the thought leader videos and white papers from all of the 10 Industry and Topic Area Committees. All specific program recommendations were identified and inventoried, and an informal discussion was held regarding appropriate criteria for program review and selection. Discussed criteria included:

  • Ongoing importance: The program area is underway and needs to be prioritized and re-fortified to drive recovery and resilience.
  • Immediate impact: The program area can make an immediate difference.
  • Concrete deliverable: The program area can easily include key performance indicators.
  • Ownership: One lead organization will be responsible.

The Integration Committee then used an online digital rating and ranking system to prioritize and select the 30 programs that are now included in the Action Framework.

The chairs and vice chairs of the 11 industry and topic area committees provided the first validation of these 30 program areas in their review of the initial draft of the Action Framework document. In fact, all reported that the Action Framework captured the gestalt of their committee’s program recommendations with no adjustments needed.  The final vetting of these 30 program areas is happening right now through the review of the draft Action Framework by the more than 200 business leaders who created it.

The Action Framework should be viewed as a three-year game plan that advances immediate, mid-term, and long-term actions and results. The Integration Committee assigned priorities to each of the 30 programs. Prioritization was based on the need to enhance key ongoing efforts like targeted business recruitment and workforce training to fill open jobs, as well as the ability to generate immediate impact with concrete deliverables.

The immediate action areas include:

  • Build Regional Unity:
    • Promote the Action Framework
    • Build a Network of 1,000+ Business and Nonprofit 757 Champions
    • Unify 757 Young Professional (aka NextGen) Organizations
    • Create and Run the “757 Did You Know” Pride-building Marketing Campaign
    • Build and Maintain the Action Framework’s Performance Dashboard
  • Grow New Jobs:
    • Continue to support the 757’s core economic drivers: military, maritime and hospitality
    • Continue to work on ways to increase the Performance and Growth of Target Industries
    • Continue to cultivate promising new industries: offshore wind
    • Continue to support the leading high-growth companies
    • Continue to attract new companies to the 757 region
  • Grow, Retain, and Attract Talent:
    • Continue to train and place qualified talent in unfilled jobs
    • Train and upskill the unemployed and underemployed
    • Retain new 757 graduates
  • Build Resiliency:
    • Increase business resiliency: business model education & training
    • Increase business resiliency: diversity & inclusion education & training
    • Increase business resiliency: employee heath and well-being education & training
  • Advance Regional Infrastructure:
    • Create and collectively advance our region’s story to the outside world

Note: An overview of the priority assigned to all programs is detailed here in the Action Framework.

Business leaders will play a vital role in the Action Framework’s success.

Before we share a few examples of how business leaders’ roles will work, let’s first be clear about the role of our regional business organizations in the Action Framework’s implementation. Our regional business organizations (the Alliance, Chambers, CIVIC, ODU, Norfolk State, etc.) have been assigned to convene each strategic pillar and related program areas. This organizational design is a practical way to ensure all program content gets created and the 30 programs are held accountable for results. The logic here is that much of the Action Framework’s content and implementation aligns with the resident skill sets and resources of these lead regional organizations. That said, this “convener” assignment for regional business organizations should not be viewed as diminishing the role of and need for business leaders in the Action Framework’s implementation.

The fact is that business leaders are the real power behind the Action Framework. For the most part, business leaders created the Action Framework. Now, our region’s business leaders and their respective companies and organizations will now execute many parts of the Action Framework. Here are some examples of how this will work, and the critical roles business leaders will play:

  1. Business leaders are needed to drive the use of the Action Framework’s business resiliency programs.

To strengthen the resiliency of companies and organizations across the region, Action Framework coalition partners CIVIC, ODU, Norfolk State, and the Hampton Roads Chamber are actively creating the following content to help increase organizational-level resiliency:

  • Diversity and inclusion (D&I): A diversity and inclusion self-assessment audit tool, self-help D&I videos, employee D&I learning App, and consulting services
  • Minority contracting: A comprehensive minority supplier database to help companies locate and hire qualified suppliers, vendors, and consultants who can help support their business needs ​ 
  • Business model resiliency planning: A business model resiliency self-assessment audit tool, self-help business training videos, and consulting services
  • Employees’ well-being: A wellness self-assessment audit tool, self-help employer well-being videos, employee well-being learning App, and consulting services
  • Future Trends: Access to the latest COVID-19 and Social Justice Movement-inspired trends to help leaders gain greater certainty on what the future may offer.

The key to advancing a greater level of resiliency-oriented competence across the region on these five areas is to have a growing number of companies and organizations utilizing this content. This is where business leaders come into play. Business leaders will utilize, benefit from, and recommend these resilience-building services.

  1. Business leaders are needed to make the Action Framework’s local pride-building campaign work:

Throughout the Action Framework research and committee work, a lack of unity was routinely mentioned as the core element that has traditionally held the Hampton Roads region back. Today, only 15 percent of business leaders believe our region is collaborating well.

As such, the more than 200 business leaders who worked on the Action Framework unanimously agreed that building regional unity was THE prerequisite for economic recovery.

This unity transcends cooperation among local governments and involves collaboration and cooperation at every level — between and among businesses, higher education, nonprofits and the military.

Enhanced region-wide collaboration starts through a better understanding of what the region includes and the many advantages it offers, and there’s room for improvement in both regards. The Envision 2020 Branding research revealed that only half (51%) of business leaders identify with Hampton Roads and many don’t know which jurisdictions are part of the region. Per the Envision 2020 research, the “7 Cities” were most mentioned as being a part of the Hampton Roads region. However, half or less (50% to 21%) of business leaders included the 10 other jurisdictions, and only 50% said Williamsburg was part of the region. Business leaders’ knowledge of 12 basic facts about Hampton Roads were low, too.

To counter this in a way that builds regional understanding and, in turn, pride, the Action Framework calls for business leaders to actively support a “Did You Know” regional pride-building campaign that utilizes organizations’ websites and social media channels to educate employees and partners. ​Campaign materials and guidance will be provided by Action Framework’s convener assigned to this pillar and program. In this case, it’s the Alliance. 

  1. Business leaders are needed to support the Action Framework’s national marketing campaign:

In addition to the local pride-building campaign, business leaders will also be needed to  support and tie into a national branding effort. This campaign will be planned in 2021 to launch in 2022. After everyone sees what we have in mind, we will ask for support in using campaign imagery and messaging on the recruitment pages of corporate websites. ​Videos, photography, and messaging will be provided that showcase the Hampton Roads region in an exciting, but unified manner.

  1. Business leaders are needed to drive the success of the 757 Champions initiative:

In addition to the previously mentioned ways business leaders and their respective companies and organizations can support the Acton Framework, we will invite everyone to become a formal 757 Champion. Champions will be offered over a dozen ways to support this cause. They will be recognized, too, at regional events where we report on the progress and impact of the Action Framework.

We need to galvanize business support for and active participation in the region’s recovery.  This starts with a goal of recruiting 1,000 business leaders to be 757 Champions. But the sky is the limit. There are roughly 5,500 regional business leaders — members of the regional business organizations. The total number of businesses in Hampton Roads is over 63,000.

Once 757 Champions have a sense of the power of the Action Framework, we will invite them to recruit others to join the cause. Collateral materials for this recruitment campaign will be provided by Action Framework’s sponsors.

  1. Business leaders are needed to hold everyone accountable for results and ongoing improvements to the Action Framework:

Business leaders understand accountability. For the first time, we have a regional plan that has quantitative, measurable goals, with assigned areas of responsibility. We now need Action Framework partners who will hold everyone accountable to their commitments. Here are three ways business leaders can serve in this capacity:

  • Share your company’s and organization’s contribution and success related to Action Framework’s activities. In short, inspire others. ​
  • Monitor the Action Framework’s performance dashboard. Demand results for your region, your business, and the people of the 757.
  • Attend Action Framework events to learn about our progress, celebrate wins, and identify ways we can accelerate the Action Framework’s impact.

In summary, the Action Framework is a fully integrated playbook that will drive recovery and enhance the resilience of our region. By design, the five strategic pillars are interconnected. The successes gained in one pillar directly impact the potential success of another pillar. The key to making the Action Framework work is the degree in which we can connect with and engage Hampton Roads’ business leaders. The long-term success of our region hangs in the balance.