As you read this, some 60 local business, community and government leaders are getting ready to jet to the left coast for some very important meetings on the topic of technology. Jack Hornbeck is the President and C.E.O. of the Hampton Roads Chamber of commerce. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done anything like this.” Hornbeck told me. “We’ve learned that when a community, or in this case a region, is faced with a challenge – it’s very effective to talk with leaders in another region who have successfully dealt with a similar challenge.” Granting the truth of that statement, Hornbeck could not have picked a better destination than Washington state.
According to a report in the Puget Sound Business Journal, by the end of 1996 Washington state was headquarters to 55 publicly traded high technology companies. Their combined market value was a staggering $124 billion. That’s up from 18 companies with a market value of $26 billion at the end of 1990. Can that kind of success be transplanted to Hampton Roads? “We believe so.” Hornbeck says. “We’re scheduled to meet with some of the same people who helped make it happen in Seattle. It’s a chance to see first hand ways that region has attracted the technology industry.”
While Hampton Roads is no “Silicon Valley East”, we have been doing pretty well lately in attracting high tech companies. The list includes computer retailer Gateway 2000, which plans to expand it’s employee base by 4300 workers. With the average high tech job in Hampton Roads paying $35,625 – this trip by the chamber may turn out to be a real bonanza!