Week of 4/15/13
Does Virginia's spaceport have the right stuff?
(The Daily Press, April 15, 2013)
All his life, 65-year-old Craig Purdy has had his eye on the sky.
As a teenager in sleepy, rural Chincoteague in the early '60s, he watched "rocket shots" out of nearby Wallops, then a Naval air station on a marshy 6-square-mile slip of barrier island in Accomack County on the Eastern Shore. Small sounding rockets would soar into the upper atmosphere and beyond, hovering to study the winds, the sun, the moon or the elements before tumbling back to earth.
Purdy's father was a retired Navy man and electronic technician at the station; while an engineering student at Virginia Tech, Purdy worked there, too. After college he was hired full-time, conducting satellite research for decades before retiring last summer as deputy director of NASA Wallops Flight Facility. ...
In the mid-90s, engineering professors at ODU suggested using Wallops as a hands-on "enterprise center" for their students. According to Oktay Baysal, dean of the school's Batten College of Engineering and Technology, they saw long-term potential in a commercial spaceport.
They even saw potential for civilians in space one day, he said, and suggested the state make space travel one of its transportation modes and place it under the Secretary of Transportation.
"So we were way ahead of the curve then," Baysal said.
At the university's suggestion, the General Assembly in 1995 formed the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority to operate the spaceport, with ODU engineering professor Billie Reed at its helm. It was headquartered at ODU, which began funding the effort, but placed under the authority of the state Secretary of Technology, rather than Transportation. A $3.6 million, small-class launch facility was built.
The state partnered with Maryland on the spaceport, since many Wallops workers lived across the state line just to the north. They named it the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to make it more inclusive. ...
"Once we got the Air Force contracts, I was free and clear," Baysal said. "Because I was paying the salaries of everyone from ODU for years. I was sort of under pressure - 'Why are you doing this? It's been 10 years.' And I said, 'Hang on, hang on, the time shall come.' And it did. We did not give up."
The Tide is just getting started
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, April 15, 2013)
Hampton Roads' residents are finally getting a better idea of what The Tide started.
In November, Virginia Beach voted to ask the City Council to find a way to bring light rail to the city. In the past few weeks, a private group has floated a $235 million proposal to take the train to Rosemont Road. Last week, Hampton Roads Transit signed a $1.8 million contract for a study on how to get light rail to Norfolk Naval Station, a major employer and a huge source of traffic in the region.
It's worth remembering, as these various processes begin, that for $318 million, Norfolk didn't buy a light rail system. It bought a 7.4-mile starter line through the region's urban core, one that goes from Eastern Virginia Medical Center on the west side of Norfolk to Newtown Road on the east.
For The Tide to become anything like an actual transit system, that line will have to be extended. Spurs will have to be built. The train will have to go places it doesn't go now.
The naval base has always been the obvious destination, along with the strategic growth areas along Virginia Beach Boulevard. So action on those fronts is no surprise.
But if The Tide is going to be successful, it can't stop there.
Some dream of taking light rail to Old Dominion University, to Oceana Naval Air Station, to Norfolk International Airport. Some want the train to cross the James River. The Elizabeth. To go to Olde Towne. To Greenbrier. To downtown Suffolk.
Those dreams represent possibilities and fantasies. They also represent a future. (More)
With military's sequester squeeze, Hampton Roads forced to adapt
(Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 14, 2013)
Small businesses in Hampton Roads are spending a lot of time these days worrying about their biggest source of customers: the U.S. military.
Half of the federal government's budget sequester - $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that began last month - is being carved from defense spending, even though defense makes up about one-fifth of all federal spending.
Those cuts, along with long-term military spending reductions planned as the war in Afghanistan winds down, have businesses of all sizes in Hampton Roads fretting over their future.
"There is $20 billion a year in federal spending here, and the vast majority of that is Department of Defense spending," said Jack Hornbeck, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. "It accounts for about 45 percent of our economy, so when the federal government sneezes, we get a bad case of the flu." ...
Zack Miller is at the center of that change.
He's the founder and managing director of Hatch, a year-old incubator and accelerator for startups. ...
Norfolk, like Richmond, has several universities in and around downtown. The offices for Hatch and xTuple are within walking distance of Tidewater Community College and a short drive from the campus of Old Dominion University. Lilly said several of his company's employees were originally interns while going to school at ODU. (More)
Meet the 2013 i.e.* finalists: Success Without Limitations
(Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 14, 2013)
As a student at Old Dominion University, Victor Rogers and some friends developed an organization to help fellow students land internships and jobs.
Now they have incorporated to form Success Without Limitations, a business that aims to help high schoolers through the college application process and ensure that college graduates land jobs that fit their skills. Rogers said more than half of young college grads are unemployed or working in a job that doesn't require a degree. He wants Virginia to get below the national average.
Money from the i.e.* finals would go toward a pilot program and branding for the young company. Rogers also wants to use some on a scholarship for a deserving student who needs financial assistance.
He said the company will organize lectures and workshops that cover everything from internship applications to developing the "soft skills" needed to land a full-time job.
"I want to take students to places they aren't used to - bring them to meetings at spots like the Bull & Bear Club so they're prepared if they have an interview there in the future," he said. "I want to show students that they can do it." (More)
Economics club hosts development expert
(The Virginian-Pilot, April 14, 2013)
Doug Henton, co-author of "Civic Revolutionaries: Igniting the Passion for Change in America's Communities," will be the featured speaker at the "Community Matters" luncheon on April 23 in Norfolk. The event will begin at noon at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.
Henton is co-founder and CEO of Collaborative Economics Inc. in San Mateo, Calif. He has worked for more than 30 years in economic and community development.
The event is sponsored by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and the Economics Club of Hampton Roads at Old Dominion University. The cost is $35. There is no charge for pre-paid members of the economics club. The deadline for reservations is Tuesday. To reserve a seat or for more information, call 683-5138 or 683-4038 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (More)
ODU is handling reseating process in an open, transparent manner
(Opinion, The Virginian-Pilot, April 12, 2013)
I don't know whether the process Old Dominion University established to reassign the 14,134 seats held by football season-ticket holders this spring at Foreman Field is fair.
Many of our readers, judging by their comments online, seem to think it's unfair, especially to loyal fans who could lose their tickets because they don't donate to the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation.
Basically, if you give to the athletic foundation, you move ahead of everyone on the season-ticket list who doesn't. ODU officials said that's necessary for the school to raise enough money to pay its bills.
I'll leave it to others to judge whether that's equitable.
But I have seen enough the last few months to know that ODU officials have handled this process in an open and transparent manner, and that they indeed seem to care very much about the little guys.
That has not been reflected in many of the comments online, nor in the headlines which ran with a print edition of the story I wrote for Thursday's newspaper.
ODU is in a difficult situation. Foreman field holds 20,088 people. Season ticket demand likely would fill a 30,000-seat stadium. The school has sold out 29 consecutive home games.
Mark Benson, who heads the foundation, got emotional when I asked him about fans who might lose their seats.
"That's a tough situation, very tough," he said. "It would be unfortunate. It's not something we want to happen. It would be great if we could accommodate everybody. (More)
Va. universities getting humanities grants
(WVVA-TV Richmond, April 12, 2013)
Nine projects at several Virginia universities are receiving a share of $17.4 million in grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The federal agency announced awards and offers for 205 projects in 39 states and the District of Columbia this week. The Virginia projects are set to receive $426,878 total.
Projects receiving funding include an Old Dominion University project to develop an open-source tool to digitally archive web pages and a George Mason University project to create an interactive website on popular romance literature. Another projected from the University of Virginia aims to map and study the imaginary county in William Faulkner's fiction writings.
NEH Chairman Jim Leach says the projects being funded will expand the boundaries of human knowledge and deepen the connection to the past. (More)
ODU, moving forward
(Letter, The Virginian-Pilot, April 11, 2013)
Old Dominion University has much to be thankful for. Under the leadership of President John Broderick, we have a vibrant football team moving up in the NCAA, and we are now revitalizing the basketball team. Moreover, the university has a stellar academic program to boot. The colleges of engineering and oceanography are world class.
In my field, education, we have risen in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report university rankings from 115th to 65th nationwide. This is due to the direction set by Dean Linda Irwin-DeVitis and a $23 million grant obtained by Professor John Nunnery to train science and math teachers.
ODU refuses to rest on past glories.
Maurice R. Berube, Norfolk (More)
Va. Beach, Oceana working to keep base off 2015 BRAC list
(WVEC-TV, April 11, 2013)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has made it official, formally requesting at least one new round of base closings in 2105.
That raises concerns about the future of Naval Air Station Oceana, which landed on the last Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission's list in 2005.
"This process is an imperfect process and there are upfront costs for BRAC. This budget adds $2.4 billion over the next five years to pay for those costs. But in the long term, there are significant savings, as we've seen from past BRAC decisions," he said Wednesday.
Hampton Roads leaders have been warning about Oceana for weeks.
"I think we should be worried about BRAC. Oceana was on the list last time they had one," Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd D.) said two weeks ago.
On Tuesday, Old Dominion University Economics Professor Jim Koch briefed the Virginia Beach City Council and called Oceana "susceptible." Citing changing Pentagon priorities, Koch said it's possible Oceana will lose air wings in the coming years.
Base leaders insist Oceana is still vital to the Navy. Commanding Officer Capt. Bob Geis said, "We're a two-Ocean Navy, really a global Navy. I think we're going to have homeports on both coasts and we're going to need a Master Jet Base on both coasts, so I'd be surprised If the Navy decided that we're going to eventually not need Oceana. Oceana is the Master Jet Base for the east coast." (More)
Study of extending light rail to naval station begins
(The Virginian-Pilot, April 11, 2013)
A $1.8 million study of extending light rail to Norfolk Naval Station has begun.
Hampton Roads Transit announced Wednesday that it had told HDR Engineering Inc. to begin identifying potential routes for getting The Tide or another form of high-capacity mass transit to the base, a major source of congestion with some 80,000 vehicles coming and going daily.
The study, expected to take 15 months, is the first step in a yearlong process to pursue federal funding for an extension, said Tom Holden, a spokesman for Hampton Roads Transit.
The City Council passed a resolution in October asking the transit agency for the study. It is being paid for with federal and state money, Holden said.
The research will involve asking the public to help identify possible corridors for connecting Norfolk's $318 million, 7.4-mile light-rail line to the Navy base, gathering concerns and gauging the need. ...
Old Dominion University, located between Norfolk's existing light-rail line and Norfolk Naval Station, figures to play a significant role in discussions of where an extension might run. Jennifer Mullen, assistant vice president of marketing and communications at ODU, released a short statement by email.
"We would welcome any study that could possibly lead to light rail coming to Old Dominion and benefitting our students, faculty and staff," it said. (More)
ODU football will soon reassign thousands of seats
(The Virginian-Pilot, April 11, 2013)
This spring, as Old Dominion University undertakes the painful process of reassigning most of the 14,134 seats purchased through football season tickets, a free-for-all of sorts has ensued.
As the team won 38 of its first 48 games and became the nation's winningest startup program, the demand for tickets skyrocketed. Foreman Field's 20,088 seats have been filled for all 29 home games, and the season-ticket waiting list more than doubled in the last year to 4,500.
Most on the list were told it would be years, perhaps not until the stadium is expanded, before they would get tickets. Not anymore.
Those on the waiting list probably will be able to purchase tickets for 2013 - if they contribute enough to the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation, the school's athletic fundraising arm. Members will receive priority over those who don't join the foundation, officials said.
The process could leave some who have held season tickets all four years - but who don't contribute to the foundation - without seats, officials say. Nearly 2,800 of the season tickets are held by those who don't contribute. (More)
Economist warns Oceana "susceptible" to DOD cuts, loss of air wings
(WVEC-TV, April 9, 2013)
Naval Air Station Oceana could be endangered in the years ahead as the Department of Defense deals with sequestration and other budgetary issues, according to a noted economist.
Old Dominion University Economics Professor James Koch briefed Virginia Beach City Council Tuesday on the impact of defense spending reductions.
In his report, Koch discussed the short-term impact of sequestration, specifically furloughs for 39,000 Department of Defense civilian employees over 14 weeks, and the possible delays or cancellations of local ship-repair contracts.
"These cuts, while difficult, will be tolerable," said Koch.
However, Koch sounded an ominous warning about the City of Virginia Beach's long-term outlook, saying, "Virginia Beach is susceptible to significant reductions on D.O.D. spending."
Koch cited three factors- the repositioning of aircraft carriers, the possible de-emphasis of aircraft carriers in our nation's future military strategy, and the spiraling cost of major weapons systems.
Together, Koch said, the three factors, "point to the loss of air wings at Oceana Naval Air Station." (More)
Bring Tide toward ODU
(Letter, The Virginian-Pilot, April 10, 2013)
The benefits to extending The Tide light rail are increased ridership, relief from traffic congestion and reduced pollution from automobile exhaust. But extending light rail to Rosemont Road would do little to encourage Virginia Beach residents to ride The Tide.
Instead of looking east, planners should look west and consider a route that parallels Hampton Boulevard, past Old Dominion University and the port, to the Navy base.
How many workers at the base would park their cars at Newtown Road and take The Tide to work? How many would opt out of the daily bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on our roads during rush hour?
Between the morning and evening rush hours, students and faculty at ODU would ride The Tide. I would take The Tide to an ODU football game.
Extend The Tide into Virginia Beach, but first do it where it will benefit citizens the most.
Jeffrey Berlin, Virginia Beach (More)
Decision time on Norfolk hotel-conference center
(The Virginian-Pilot, April 9, 2013)
Opponents of a multimillion-dollar hotel-conference center in Norfolk made their voices heard Monday night, and a second council member joined a growing chorus with a clear refrain: Slow down.
Officials are scheduled to vote Tuesday on the $126 million project, which would give Norfolk a 50,000-square-foot conference center and 23-story, 300-room luxury hotel. Norfolk officials hope the new facility, which could be finished by spring 2017, attracts new conference business and diversifies the city's economy.
But it will take more to convince some Norfolk hoteliers and concerned residents. The Norfolk Hotel Motel Association and representatives of the Norfolk Waterside Marriott and Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel have asked the city to delay the vote. And, on Monday night, about 100 people, many voicing opposition, showed up at a town hall meeting organized by Councilman Tommy Smigiel at the Crossroads Recreational Center. ...
The Marriott and Sheraton say a decrease in travel for the military and its contractors could hurt a region where defense spending makes up about 46 percent of the economy.
Those fears are not unfounded, according to Vinod Agarwal, an economist with Old Dominion University.
"I'm not sure the timing is correct," he said. "Having said so, the hotel is not going to come up overnight." (More)