NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — We know how much the coronavirus pandemic took a chunk out of the economy — both locally and nationally.

The defense of our country is no different. Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk) visited BAE Systems in Norfolk to talk about the future of shipbuilding and repair here in Hampton Roads.

Luria spoke about increasing the defense budget and why she feels they need to be building more ships.

“42% of our economy in Hampton Roads is directly related to the Navy and [Department of Defense] and so we really want to understand the challenges of the workforce here … and our other shipyards,” she said.

Luria spoke on the changes she believes need to happen in order to boost the Navy and the local economy.

“We need to grow our Navy, we need to grow our defense budget as well. I think that we need to grow approximately three to 5% over inflation,” she said.

Luria also said it’s important they are bringing in a qualified workforce to prepare for growing threats overseas. During a tour Thursday, Vice President and General Manager of BAE systems Paul Smith showed Luria their apprentice school.

He said growing the workforce locally is a big help for the community.

“We invest a couple of years and individuals in that program, and we’re going to show it later today. So that’s an example for us where we recognize that we have to grow our own talent. And we invest in the local community to do that,” he said.

For more information on BAE Systems click here.