A megaregion between Hampton Roads and Richmond? One organization is working to make it possible

Virginia

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — Between the hustle and bustle of Hampton Roads and Richmond, leaders sat down to learn how they can make two areas into a “megaregion.”

On Wednesday, the second annual Convergence 2021 conference was held in Williamsburg by the Hampton Roads Chamber, Chamber RVA, and RVA757 Connects.

“RVA757 Connects is a network of business, community, and higher education leaders that work together to improve the economic development and quality of life in the Richmond region and Hampton Roads region,” said John Martin, who is the organization’s CEO and president.

Martin says the nonprofit has been around for five years and has a board of 35 CEOs, community leaders, and others who work to identify priorities that impacts both regions.

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“Innovation is the key to success. Innovation is driven by collaboration. Collaboration now in a global economy is taking place between twin cities. They’re becoming the new economic unit,” he said.

Martin says there are 12 megaregions in the United States where 70% of the jobs and the population live and work.

“So, we want to be part of that mix. We want to be where the economic prosperity is happening today and certainly tomorrow,” he said.

The inspiration behind the organization came five years ago after there were issues at the Richmond Port System and the Virginia Port Authority in Hampton Roads. The organization stepped in to help.

“Now there are barges that go up and down the James River removing all these trucks from [Interstate] 64 helping to mitigate the traffic congestion. When we saw that, we said something great is happening. Let’s keep that initiative,” Martin said.

Other projects include widening I-64 from Hampton Roads to Richmond and increasing passenger rail service.

Wednesday’s conference focused on making the area a global internet hub and spoke with a panelist from Marseilles, France, where similar work’s been done.

Hampton Roads Chamber President and CEO Bryan Stephens says we’re already in a good position to make that happen here with intercontinental subsea cables.

“They’re not new in a global perspective but they’re new to Virginia,” he said. “The concept was: how do we leverage those for economic development, the creation of jobs, and the creation of a technological corridor?”

Martin says becoming an internet global hub is important to becoming a megaregion and there needs to be a digital infrastructure in place to attract businesses.

“Remote work is happening more and more but that means really reliable internet going to everyone’s home. More and more companies are looking to have that advantage of being of being close to a fiber network backbone that has the latest and highest speeds. We want to make that happen here. The good news, the real good news is those offshore cables come in at Virginia Beach but they terminate at the fourth-largest integration building in the world in Richmond, in Henrico County. So together, our two regions working together have something that is the envy of most cities. We have this digital backbone. We need to leverage on that,” he said.

To learn more about RVA757 Connects, click here.

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