Week of 3/18/13
A Great American Biography
(The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2013)
It's easy to imagine the skepticism that greeted Blake Bailey when he decided that, after writing acclaimed biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates, he would next take up-Charles Jackson. "Who?" must have been the main response. Jackson, who committed suicide in 1968 at the age of 65, was not exactly a household name even during his lifetime, and by now he is pretty well forgotten. His claim to fame rests on one novel, "The Lost Weekend," which Mr. Bailey alludes to hopefully in the subtitle of "Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson." ...
But while that book enjoyed several years of bestsellerdom after it appeared in 1944 and still has a reputation as a minor classic-Vintage Books is bringing out a new edition to coincide with Mr. Bailey's biography-it is better known today in its movie version, which won an Oscar for Ray Milland in 1945. And it is best known as a phrase, having entered the language as a synonym for an alcoholic binge. Yet as Mr. Bailey shows, Jackson can't even take credit for that. When he submitted his manuscript about five hideous days in the life of Don Birnam, his drunken alter ego, Jackson's title for the book was "The Long Weekend." It was someone at his publisher "who added a phrase to the language," Mr. Bailey writes, "by changing only two letters of the working title."
(Blake Bailey is the Mina Hohenberg Darden Professor of Creative Writing at Old Dominion University). (More)
Retail and multifamily markets lead way
(Inside Business, March 15, 2013)
Hampton Roads is the turtle in the race to economic recovery - slow, but steady.
At the 2013 Hampton Roads Real Estate Market Review and Forecast, held at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk on Wednesday afternoon, commercial real estate professionals from six markets presented overviews of 2012. While the local retail and multifamily markets boomed, the industrial sector stayed stagnant and the office sector showed glimmers of redemption as a few companies signed larger-than-normal leases and others made big purchases.
The annual event, now in its 18th year, is sponsored by Old Dominion University's E.V. Williams Center for Real Estate and Economic Development. About 600 people were in attendance.
"Hampton Roads is open for business," said David Machupa, vice president of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer. "Whole Foods is one of the top retail tenants sought after in the nation. The fact that they opened up in Hampton Roads on the Southside back in October of last year is a good indicator for the market."
In his market review of 2011, which he presented this time last year, Machupa said slow and steady would win the race and the numbers of 2012 proved him right. Hampton Roads had a gradual recovery. Three years ago the area's overall vacancy rate was just about 10 percent for the retail market. Vacancy rates for small shops in Hampton Roads are now down to 7.85 percent. (More)
Sequester a wake-up call for local business diversity?
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 18, 2013)
Old Dominion University economist James Koch figures it's been a dozen years since he first sounded the alarm: Hampton Roads leaders had better start working to diversify the local economy because the Navy won't always be the region's sugar daddy.
U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach, can recall such discussions dating to the mid-'80s in the business community. "It is a common refrain: We absolutely need to diversify," Rigell said last week. "We all go to the Marriott or the Hilton or the conference center in Chesapeake. We all agree that it needs to happen. For whatever reason, it doesn't get done."
Now, business and political leaders agree, it's got to get done.
Half of the $85 billion in budget cuts triggered this year by sequestration will be carved from defense, though the military accounts for only one-fifth of total federal spending. Even if sequestration is halted, defense spending is expected to shrink with pressure to reduce the national debt and the wind-down of the war in Afghanistan.
"The threat of sequestration, hopefully, is the major wake-up call to rally and galvanize the region to finally focus on a serious and doable economic-development growth plan," said Peter Shaw, professor of business administration and management at Tidewater Community College. (More)
AMBASSADOR (Ret.) BISMARCK MYRICK
(The Citizen of Chesapeake, March, 2013)
Who says you can't go home again? Born in Portsmouth VA, Ambassador Bismarck Myrick serves as Old Dominion University's Ambassador in Residence after being the U.S. Ambassador to several foreign countries throughout his lifetime.
He now lives in the Woodard's Mill neighborhood of Chesapeake with his wife Marie Pierre Myrick. Ambassador Myrick has represented the U.S. throughout the world in various capacities. He was a field grade officer in the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and Germany. He earned the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars for heroism in combat, two Bronze Stars for meritorious service in a combat zone, the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Parachutist Badge and Combat Infantry Badge.
He graduated from the University of Tampa with honors and earned an M.A. degree from Syracuse University. Spelman College awarded him a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Ambassador Myrick had studied Amharic, Ethiopia's official language, and then served in Ethiopia from 1975 to 1979 as an Army foreign area officer. In 1980 he joined the Foreign Service and was assigned as Desk Officer for Somalia in the Office of East African Affairs.
"That was very challenging," he comments. "At that time Somalia had the largest refugee population and was at war with its neighbor Ethiopia."
Local homes sales steady as prices rise in February
(Bloomberg Businessweek/The Virginian-Pilot, March 16, 2013)
The residential real estate market continues to show signs of improvement in Hampton Roads, but questions linger about whether it will keep up the pace.
The median price of existing homes in South Hampton Roads increased 2.9 percent to $175,000 in February, up from $170,000 the same month last year, according to data released Friday by the Real Estate Information Network, a multiple-listing service based in Virginia Beach.
Year-over-year sales volume in February dropped slightly to 818 from 823 -- a 0.6 percent decrease.
Meanwhile, across all of Hampton Roads, residential listings continued to decrease, meaning inventory is on the decline. Lower inventories typically lead to higher prices.
Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics and director of the Economic Forecasting Project at Old Dominion University, said year-to-date statistics are promising, but he has two major concerns: the share of home sales and home listings that are distressed, and the potential effects of defense cuts on the housing recovery.
More than 1 in 3 homes sold in February were either in foreclosure or were purchased through a short sale, which is what happens when a house sells for less than what's owed on the mortgage. This year in South Hampton Roads, median prices have climbed 6.1 percent, and the number of existing homes sold has increased 5.8 percent.
The region's residential market has seen slow and steady improvement for 10 months, but Agarwal said "there are lots of 'ifs' and 'buts' right now." (More)
Check the numbers on port's success
(Opinion, The Virginian-Pilot, March 13, 2013)
Since April 2012, Virginia has been evaluating APM Terminals' proposal to put a modern business operating model in place for the Port of Hampton Roads. That evaluation is set to conclude at the March 26 Virginia Port Authority Board meeting.
APMT welcomed a rigorous, fact-based evaluation of our offer. Yet, the public debate has largely turned on the words of a few who benefit from the status quo. We need to move this discussion back to the facts.
A recently published source of new and independent data provides a fresh opportunity to measure the true performance of the port.
Old Dominion University's 2013 Economic Forecast, published on Jan. 30 by Professors Vinod Agarwal, Mohammad Najand and Gary A. Wagner, presents key economic indicators that measure the economic health of Hampton Roads. Among those indicators is a performance assessment of the port's current operating model.
Pages 27 through 35 of the 64-page report specifically address the Port of Hampton Roads. Although the port performance assessment in the ODU Economic Forecast did not receive any media attention, it is important to publicly review it here.
While the ODU report confirms recent headlines regarding cargo volumes, it balances out what is portrayed as good news with sobering, hard-hitting facts: (More)
Threats to PHL rich marine biodiversity
(The Business Mirror (The Philippines), March 16, 2013)
THE Philippines is among the six countries in the Coral Triangle-the home of the richest marine biodiversity in the world. Among these countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and the Philippines), the Philippines is at the apex, which makes it the "center of the center of marine biodiversity" in the world.
Among the 10,000 species studied by the Global Marine Species Assessment, a third are found in the country.
Dr. Kent Carpenter, professor of Biological Sciences in Old Dominion University, said on Wednesday at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute that there are four hypotheses for the analysis of why the Philippines is the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, namely, the area-accumulation hypothesis, area-overlap hypothesis, the center of origin and the area of refuge.
Carpenter said in his lecture, titled "Philippine Habitat Richness as an Explanation for its Global Epicenter of Marine Biodiversity," that the unique geology of the Coral Triangle explains the area-accumulation hypothesis.
The number of isolated islands in the Pacific Ocean are key source of species which mainly works in isolation and, because of the strong equatorial current, the species are washed in the Coral Triangle, thus, making their number increase.
In the area-overlap analysis, Indian and Pacific Ocean biota are mixed, thus, creating or exchanging species in the area.
The center of origin hypothesis explains that speciation occurs very rapidly in the Coral Triangle. The study works to find if there are patterns of population genetics throughout the years. (More)
Hampton Roads seeing good activity, but federal defense cuts could stifle some commercial growth
(Virginia Business, March 14, 2013)
2012 was a good year for the Hampton Roads commercial real estate market, and 2013 is shaping up to be even better with the exception of one dark cloud: the possible effects of sequestration.
Billions in defense cuts which kicked in March 1 after Congress failed to reach a budget agreement has put the defense industry - a big player in Hampton Roads-on hold, Deborah Stearns, a senior vice president with Jones Lang LaSalle, said during a market review on Wednesday.
Sponsored by the Center for Real Estate and Economic Development at Old Dominion University, the 18th annual Hampton Roads Real Estate Market Review and Forecast drew about 500 people to the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk.
Stearns said the industry already is seeing the uncertainty in the defense sector. "Defense contractors are a cold segment of the market," she said, noting that some are asking for lease terminations, shorter lease terms leases and consolidations.
On the brighter side, she said the office market in Hampton Roads recovered in 2012 with the average vacancy rate for Class A properties at 12.1 percent. "We recovered what we lost in 2011." In submarkets with new construction such as Virginia Beach Town Center, where a14-story mixed-use project is going up, the vacancy rate was even lower at 8.5 percent. (More)
ODU named a 'Tree Campus'
(WAVY.com, March 12, 2013)
Old Dominion University in Norfolk has been designated a 'Tree Campus'.
The Arbor Day Foundation notified the university this month about the recognition. "Your entire campus community should be proud of this sustained commitment to environmental stewardship," wrote Mary Widhelm, program manager with the Arbor Day Foundation.
In order to earn the 'Tree Campus' status, a college or university must manage its resources of campus trees, develop connectivity beyond campus borders to foster healthy urban forests and strive to engage its student population through learning opportunities centered on campus and community forestry efforts.
"What people might not realize about ODU's urban location is that we are a campus with a burgeoning urban forest and an abundance of flora and fauna within a city location," said Chad Peevy, ODU grounds manager.
ODU has an Arbor Day celebration planned for April 20. Volunteers will plant trees across campus. To participate in the Arbor Day event contact firstname.lastname@example.org. (More)
McAuliffe faces Cuccinelli, inexperience in race
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 13, 2013)
Terry McAuliffe wants to talk jobs, economic development and how his business experience positions him to further the pro-growth agenda of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whom he hopes to replace.
He's also quick to cast Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as a socially conservative ideologue whose hyper-charged partisanship alienates large swaths of the electorate.
What McAuliffe is less eager to discuss are the ways in which he differs, politics aside, from those Republican officeholders: namely, his lack of state government experience.
In his second run for Virginia's highest office, McAuliffe finds himself in the unusual position of aspiring to a post without having come up through the legislature or another wing of state government. ...
"Voters care a lot about ideology and tradition, but they also care about competence," said Old Dominion University political science professor Jesse Richman. "There's a certain competence capability that people expect of their governor, and if a candidate can't climb above that bar, there are problems in store." (More)
Ynot Pizza is new ticket sales sponsor at two venues
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 13, 2013)
Ynot Pizza & Italian Cuisine has taken over the sponsorship of ticket operations for the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk and the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach.
Global Spectrum, the venue operator based in Philadelphia, runs the Constant and Sandler centers and sells tickets for ODU's athletics games. Ynot, with five locations in Hampton Roads, has worked with Global Spectrum as a sponsor of ODU football and basketball games and of the Ynot Wednesdays? summer events at the Sandler Center.
Those who buy tickets online will go to YnotTix.com. Ynot replaced Cox Communications Inc., which had sponsored the ticket sales since 2007.
Ynot's owners, brothers Tony and Harry DiSilvestro, declined to disclose the sponsorship cost. It will boost recognition of the Ynot brand throughout the region, they said, and provide opportunities for cross-promotion with the venues. (More)
Liberty University uses online education to make it big
(The Virginian-Pilot/Washington Post, March 13, 2013)
The small Baptist college that television preacher Jerry Falwell founded in 1971 has capitalized on the online education boom to become an evangelical mega-university with global reach.
In the almost six years since Falwell's death, Liberty University has doubled its student head count - twice.
Total enrollment exceeds 74,000, with nearly 62,000 working toward degrees online in fields such as psychology, business, education, criminal justice and, of course, religion. That makes Liberty the largest university in Virginia - with more than double the number of students at No. 2 George Mason - and the largest private, nonprofit university in the country. With a slogan of "training champions for Christ," Liberty also is the nation's largest university with a religious affiliation. ...
Liberty had about 3,800 online students in fall 2005. Since then, its online head count has grown an average of about 8,000 students a year. The university became Virginia's largest in 2008. In the fall, it had 74,369 students.
"That's a remarkable statistic," said John Broderick, president of Old Dominion University, which has about 25,000 students. "To scale up to that level, the resources that you would need to do it would make a real interesting business model." (More)