NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hampton Roads has mostly recovered from the economic stress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new report warns of an overreliance on federal spending.

The 24th annual State of the Region report from Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, delivered Tuesday to the Hampton Roads Chamber, outlined a bevy of issues to be addressed across the region. In particular, Robert McNab, the chairman of the Department of Economics and Director of the Dragas Center in the Strome College of Business, noted that the region cannot depend on federal government spending.

“2023 might seem like the best of times and the worst of times,” McNab said. “There was a record number of residents working or looking for work, and the unemployment rate hovered near pre-pandemic lows. Defense spending in the region increased, the Port of Virginia moved more cargo than it did prior to the pandemic, and the hotel industry observed record revenues.

“Yet, when we compare the performance of the region to large metro areas in neighboring states, there is much to be desired. We just are not growing as fast as our competitors, and we have yet to see a full recovery in the number of jobs in the region.”

The report’s purpose is to provide decision makers and thought leaders with data that can be inserted in discussions that affect the daily lives of Hampton Roads residents.

The event was divided into the following seven parts:

  • Growth Returns, Now Make it Last
  • The Pillars of the Hampton Roads Economy Remains Strong
  • The Fourth Pillar: Veterans in Hampton Roads
  • Get on the bus: Public Transportation in Hampton Roads
  • Death and Dying in Hampton Roads: What is the state of end-of-life care in Hampton Roads?
  • Should Taxpayers Subsidize Private Facilities in Hampton Roads? Glitz vs Reality
  • The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art: Challenges, Opportunities, and Economic Impact

When speaking of the hospitality industry, Dr. Vinod Agarwal said one thing must happen in order for hotel revenue to continue to increase.

“We need to increase demand for hotel rooms, not just the rates. You keep on increasing the rates, guess what there’s competition out there. And the competition comes from short term rental companies – Airbnb people have options,” he said.

Researchers also touched on hospice care, saying it’s often overlooked.

She explained a big challenge Hampton Roads runs into when it comes to that industry.

“Hospice care in Hampton roads is really missing an important element not to have a free standing hospice house and again if you look at some regional data, statewide data were actually quite underserved,” she said.

However the Dozoretz Hospice House of Hampton Roads is set up to open in the spring of 2024.

While it’ll be located in Virginia Beach, it will be available to everyone in Hampton Roads.

A link to the full report can be found here.