Week of 1/13/14
For businesses, honoring King not always simple
(FindLaw/The Virginian-Pilot, Jan. 9, 2014)
In eight days, the country will formally commemorate the anniversary of the 85th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. That doesn't mean most people will be off work that day.
About 35 percent of businesses polled by Bloomberg BNA will give their employees the day off. That's a big jump from the 14 percent that told the Arlington research firm they would observe the holiday in 1986, the year it was established. But in recent years, the number has edged up more slowly.
The decision to open or shut weighs social values versus business realities, and even raises the question of whether closing is the best way to honor the civil rights legend.
Government offices, of course, will mostly be closed. Same for many banks. Because the Federal Reserve System is closed, banks can't accomplish such functions as wire transfers, check clearances and cash withdrawals, said Jim Strader, a spokesman for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
Among the local businesses I surveyed that also will take the day off: Cox Communications; Crenshaw, Ware & Martin, a Norfolk law firm; the Lipton tea plant in Suffolk; the Amerigroup health insurance company, based in Virginia Beach; and the CBRE real estate firm in Norfolk. ...
Maybe, but Lance Frazier, an assistant management professor at Old Dominion University, said, "People will be a little more understanding of small businesses. The last two weeks might have been very, very tough, not a lot going on, and this might be the first opportunity to get things going again."
More important than whether a business closes, he said, is how it treats its employees and customers year-round. "That tells them what your values are and if they are aligned with Dr. King's," he said. Matt Sottong, Bloomberg BNA's research director, said he was struck by how many employers said they acknowledge King's legacy on other days -- scheduling lectures, distributing readings, encouraging volunteer activities. Virginia Wesleyan College, unlike many universities, will stay open and hold classes in its short winter session. The college also will encourage students to join a trash pickup in neighboring Lake Edward that morning and attend a memorial service at noon at its chapel. (More)
Early education advocates set sights on 2014 for progress
(Inside Business, Jan. 9, 2014)
Early childhood education proponents are excited about 2014, citing the confluence of fresh funding, maturing initiatives and new supporters that have built momentum for the issue over the past year.
In his final two-year budget released last month, former Gov. Bob McDonnell designated some $7.4 million over the next biennium for pre-kindergarten programs. Terry McAuliffe, who took office as Virginia governor Saturday, has called for expanding education programs for children under age 5. Business leaders across the state have coalesced around the issue in 2013, culminating in the Virginia Chamber of Commerce including early education as a key component of "Blueprint Virginia," its eight-year strategic plan.
"That, combined with the fact that we have an incoming governor who campaigned on the importance of early education, gives me a lot of confidence that Virginia will be able to make progress on these issues over the next few years," said Del. Rob Krupicka, D-Alexandria. "Prior to this year, I'd say we've been doing a lot of treading water."
The business interest in pre-K stems from greater recognition of those years as the start of the pipeline to the workforce. Various studies indicate that 90 percent of brain development occurs before a child turns 5, and experts say the children with the weakest foundations entering kindergarten are the most likely to struggle throughout school and, potentially, burden society.
"What we've found is that if we don't provide Virginia's kids with high-quality educational experiences when they're in their youngest years, then anything that we do after that is pretty much meaningless," said Pete Baker, co-director of Old Dominion University's Virginia Early Childhood Policy Center.
The policy center, which launched in September, plans to release a study this month to provide a snapshot of all early childhood issues in the state. (More)
Team sports versus team building debate splits household
(The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 9, 2014)
As parents, we want our kids to understand the value of being healthy and part of a team. Whether or not that includes organized team sports is up for discussion. ... "There is no 'I' in TEAM," is a phrase many team sports advocates seem to refer to as a positive reason for supporting kids in team sports. It supports the opportunities team sports provide to work together with others and look beyond yourself for the greater good of a larger group.
My husband Robert and I are facing off this month over team sports vs. team building activities for our kids, especially when it comes to our own sons.
I love sports. I love teams. Healthy bodies and minds and team building are all great with me, just not when they become a soul-crushing misery that causes a rift in the family. I believe team building and character come in many forms that have nothing to do with taking a lap. ...
Right now, my husband and I are debating about team sports specifically for our son Avery, 14. Avery is in the gifted programs in math and science, lean, ascetic, with shoulder length blond hair, and a passion for the video game League of Legends.
It seems that Robert's MVP is our eldest son, Zoltan, 20, an A student and a crew team star for Virginia Commonwealth University. He runs 12 miles a day before dawn, rows 5K after that, works in a gym at VCU, and wins gold medals in national competitions.
However, I am quick to point out that there was a time during high school when Zoltan quit the rowing team and refused all other sports in favor of hanging out with friends, gaming, and girls.
Our next oldest son, Ian, 18, an Old Dominion University freshman, has trained in Gracie Jiu Jitsu since freshman year of high school.
He trains for seven hours a day now, and my husband still rolls his eyes saying, "It's not a sport. There's no team. There's no cardio." (More)
Experts Meet to Discuss Fish Populations in Gulf of Mexico
(KIII-TV (Corpus Christi, Tex.), Jan. 9, 2014)
Some of the foremost experts from around the Gulf region have been meeting at the Harte Research Institute at the Island University to talk about a 'red' fish list.
The researchers are talking about some 400 species of gulf fish that need to be further researched to ensure their future survival.
The BP oil spill from a couple of summers ago really attracted a lot of those scientists' concerns about the gulf habitat. That is why they are meeting to talk about fish like the goliath grouper, which is found throughout the gulf. The scientists are also discussing the red snapper and tarpon, two very popular sport fishes that are seeing a decline in numbers.
Everyone at the meeting is a part of a group called the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
"What we're trying to do is understand specifically whether or not there is a more or less chance of extinction for these species within the gulf, and particularly in light of potential disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon," said Dr. Kent Carpenter of Old Dominion University. (More)
ODU joins Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing
(The Daily Press, Jan. 8, 2014)
Old Dominion University joined the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Prince George County to provide expertise in surface engineering and digital manufacturing.
ODU is the fourth academic partner, joining the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. The 62,000-square-foot applied research center was unveiled in March and is next to the developing Rolls Royce Crosspointe campus, which hosts aero engine component manufacturing facilities.
Oktay Baysal, dean of ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, has been appointed to the CCAM's board of directors, according to an ODU news release. Mileta Tomovic, chair of the ODU Department of Engineering Technology, has been appointed to the CCAM's technical advisory committee.
John Sokolowski, executive director of ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, has been appointed to the CCAM industrial operations board.
Tomovic said CCAM's goal is to serve as a bridge between academia and industry by taking promising research results from university labs to industry and ultimately to consumers through scale-up transition process. Joining CCAM allows ODU to work in private research and development, inclduing for local corporate members Newport News Shipbuilding, Canon and Siemens. (More)
Old Dominion University joins research center
(Virginia Business, Jan. 8, 2014)
Old Dominion University has become the fourth university partner of a Virginia advanced manufacturing research center.
ODU joins the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University as an academic member of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) in Prince George County,
In addition, Oktay Baysal, dean of ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology (BCET), has been appointed to CCAM's board of directors.
Old Dominion University will provide expertise in surface engineering and digital manufacturing to CCAM, which is based near a Rolls-Royce jet engine components plant.
Surface engineering involves altering the properties of a surface to meet specific application requirements. Digital manufacturing involves the application of digital thread for design, development, manufacturing and support of physical products and systems through their lifecycle.
Old Dominion University is based in Hampton Roads, home to 300 manufacturing companies employing more than 60,000 people.
CCAM members guide the research of the center, pooling R&D efforts to increase efficiencies.
CCAM members include Newport News Shipbuilding, Canon, Siemens, Chromalloy, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik Coromant, Sulzer Metco, Aerojet, Hermle Machine Co., Mitutoyo, TurboCombustor Technology Inc., Buehler, Cool Clean Technologies, GF AgieCharmilles, Blaser Swisslube, Mechdyne and NASA Langley Research Center. (More)
Why Facebook isn't a good platform for recruiters
(Yahoo Finance, Jan. 8, 2014)
With an explosion in the use of social media in recent years, it's little wonder that some employers have turned to Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) to learn more about potential job applicants.
Yet, the results of a new academic study suggest that social media may not be a great indicator of an employee's performance.
In a report published in the Journal of Management last month, researchers from the U.S.'s Florida State University, Old Dominion University, Clemson University and Accenture said that companies should be "very cautious" about using information found on social media to assess candidates.
The researchers asked 86 recruiters to assess the Facebook profiles of 416 undergraduate and graduate students from a large university in the southeastern U.S. They followed up with the applicants a year later and asked their new supervisors to review their performance.
Their findings: recruiters' assessment of information on Facebook was unrelated to a supervisor's ratings of job performance, turnover intentions and actual turnover. Also, the Facebook ratings did not contribute to predicting these factors beyond other more traditional indicators, while there was some evidence in the Facebook ratings that tended to favor female and White applicants.
"In sum, although SM [social media] platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may contain some potentially job-relevant information, identifying and accurately rating this information could be quite difficult," the research said. (More)
National Park Service lecture series continues Thursday with talk on sustainable boating
(Virgin Islands Daily News, Jan. 8, 2014)
The National Park Service on St. Croix is continuing its lecture series this month with a Thursday evening talk by Jenn Travis from Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park.
"She is going to give a lecture on sustainable boating operations in protected waters," said David Goldstein, chief of interpretation and education for the National Park Service sites on St. Croix.
The lecture will likely touch on a variety of topics, including types of vessels seen as friendly for protected waters, sorts of activities that should be allowed in protected waters and personal responsibility, he said.
As a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Management Fellow working with the V.I. Department of Natural Resources at the East End Marine Park, Travis will share information with all interested members of the public who operate in the marine environment.
The discussion, according to a release, will be relevant to boaters, divers, swimmers, snorkelers, kitesurfers and anyone else with an interest in sustainable marine use.
Travis came to St. Croix in 2009.
Since then, she has managed the Turtle Watch Education Program at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, been an active member of the Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators, led hundreds of snorkel tours, coordinated the education program at St. George Village Botanical Garden, co-designed a communication and outreach plan for Virgin Islands Marine Protected Areas Network, and completed her master's of science in education degree at Old Dominion University, according to the release. (More)
McDonnell comes to end of the line as governor
(The Virginian-Pilot, Jan. 8, 2014)
Gov. Bob McDonnell's valedictory speech tonight is a chance to reflect on an eventful tenure and say farewell to those he's governed the past four years, as well as to legislators he's served with during two-plus decades in office.
His departing State of the Commonwealth address, if precedent is a guide, will invoke major accomplishments from a term beset by economic struggles, bookended by transportation policy actions and highlighted with reforms to education, the state pension system and economic development efforts.
And were it not for an unresolved gift scandal that's marred his final year in office, even McDonnell detractors would have conceded the Republican was leaving office with an enviable resume and a bright political future.
Instead, the outgoing governor's legacy is in limbo - seriously tarnished but too substantial to be dismissed. ...
Now a possible criminal indictment looms, following state and federal investigations into whether he sought to improperly promote a Star Scientific Inc. health supplement after he and his family accepted more than $150,000 in gifts and loans from the company's former chief executive, Jonnie Williams Sr.
McDonnell has publicly apologized and said he repaid the gifts. He insists neither Star nor Williams received special state benefits.
"I believe in all my heart that I did not do anything wrong," he said. "I followed the laws the best I could as I understood them at the time."
Notwithstanding that, the scandal remains "a significant blot" on McDonnell's record, said Old Dominion University political science professor Jesse Richman, because "it runs so contrary to the values McDonnell has articulated: The appearance is of service to special interests instead of public interests." (More)
Hampton Roads unemployment rate dips to 5.5 percent
(The Virginian-Pilot, Jan. 8, 2014)
The unemployment rate in Hampton Roads fell to 5.5 percent in November, the Virginia Employment Commission reported Tuesday. It had been 6 percent in the previous month as well as a year before.
The local unemployment rate, which is not adjusted for seasonal factors, dropped to its second-lowest point in nearly five years. The lowest was in April last year, when it was 5.4 percent.
All local cities and counties reported lower unemployment rates in November than in November 2012. Only Currituck County, N.C., reported an increase from October. The rates in November ranged from 4.9 percent in Isle of Wight County to 11.2 percent in Williamsburg.
The unadjusted rates for the nation and Virginia also declined in November to 6.6 percent and 5 percent, respectively. ...
Vinod Agarwal, an economist at Old Dominion University, said all the signs have improved from the previous year - the unemployment rate, the number of employed people and the total number in the labor force, including those still looking for work. "We don't have as many discouraged workers as we probably have in the nation," he said.
The numbers, Agarwal said, "also tell me that sequestration didn't seem to have as much impact on jobs as we had expected." (More)
Universities build better futures
(Opinion, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 6, 2014)
More than half of today's U.S. economic growth comes from innovation industries that barely existed 10 years ago. Intense global competition continues to create knowledge and new jobs in tomorrow's industries. It's why countries like India are investing billions to build 1,000 new universities in this decade, and it's why U.S. states all invest in their own research universities.
What level of return on investment is Virginia getting for its contributions to university research? One objective measure is the recently released National Science Foundation survey of all national universities, reporting the amount of funds invested by the state and the amount of federal funding obtained and spent on research at each university.
The University of Virginia conducted research supported by more than $240 million in federal research funds in fiscal year 2012. The next five Virginia institutions in federal funding expenditures are Virginia Tech ($184 million), Virginia Commonwealth University ($142 million), George Mason University ($64 million), Old Dominion University ($39 million) and the College of William and Mary ($33 million).
Why is federal funding important? It represents a long-term investment, based on careful peer review and judgment by the world's leading scientists and experts in all fields. When a Virginia faculty member wins a federal grant, it is usually in competition with about 120 other competitors from around the nation - the same level of achievement as winning a national championship in NCAA Division I football. Winning on a playing field like this provides tremendous leverage to state taxpayer dollars, bringing new funds and know-how into the state. (More)
2014 WHAT'S AHEAD Higher education
(Inside Business, Jan. 3, 2014)
President, Old Dominion University
In 2014, I think higher education in Virginia will continue to pursue strategies aimed at awarding more college degrees, particularly in the science, technology, engineering, math and health sciences areas that are critical to economic development. But we'll also see institutions trying to strike that delicate balance between reduced state and federal funding and the desire to keep tuition affordable.
At Old Dominion University, we will be launching a major entrepreneurism curriculum, supported by a $10 million donation by alumnus and hedge fund manager Mark Strome. The initiative will offer entrepreneurism classes across all colleges and disciplines, as well as create a student entrepreneurial center, co-curricular programming, lectures, competitions and mentorships.
Entrepreneurs are not solely business majors, and so offering training to our artists, health professionals, engineers, scientists and educators will help inspire and prepare these students to be tomorrow's entrepreneurs in their fields.
The initiative complements work the university has been doing in the Business Gateway, with the Women's and Veterans business centers for example, and is a cornerstone to our role as an economic development leader for the region.
In 2014, Old Dominion University will finalize its 5-year strategic plan that will take us to 2019; explore partnership opportunities with the Community Foundation to promote the region's economic development; invest in key research that complements regional strengths like the port, military, bay and federal labs; and study the feasibility of a joint Public School of Health with Eastern Virginia Medical School. (More)
TOP STORIES OF 2013 Sea level rise called most pressing issue for region this century
(Inside Business, Dec. 27, 2013)
This year saw several milestone events that suggest rising sea levels and sinking ground levels are not only scientific issues, but also economic issues.
Scientists with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science said the most recent estimates have Hampton Roads experiencing 1.5 to 2 feet of sea level rise by 2050. The implications of that run the gamut, local experts said, including worsening floods, higher property insurance rates, increased municipal spending on flood defense and response, military base relocation, health issues and more.
Perhaps the most notable municipal move this year aimed at curbing the impact of rising waters was Norfolk's floodplain ordinance changes that passed on Nov. 26 with a 6-0 vote. Among other things, the new rules mandate increased building elevations for new structures in flood-prone areas and spell out circumstances when existing properties must undergo a costly elevation project.
Floodplains denote areas with increased flood risks as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Norfolk city officials said 25 percent of the city's landmass, about 44,000 parcels, is located within a floodplain. ...
There were several other sea level rise-related conferences, including an Old Dominion University internationally attended symposium in October, and a "Safe Coast Virginia" conference in November given by organizations including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. (More)
Home Staging Effect? Not Much.
(The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26, 2013)
How much does a tacky purple wall color affect a home's sale price? Not much, according to new research on home staging. As it stands, this option is part of the long-range transportation plan for the region, which is basically just an acknowledgement that the option exists.
While good staging does influence a home buyer's overall impression of a house, staging alone doesn't result in buyers willing to pay more for the house, says Michael Seiler, professor of real estate and finance at the College of William and Mary, who researched how home buyers responded to six house tours that varied in paint color and furniture quality.
His findings show that buyers are willing to pay roughly $204,000 in each of the house examples, regardless of the quality of furnishings or paint color. However, the research subjects believed that other buyers would adjust their pricing based on how the house is staged.
"We were able to parse out what you consciously believe and subconsciously believe," Mr. Seiler says. "Beforehand, everyone thinks poor staging is going to be a problem. But when we actually did the experiment, we found it doesn't matter."
Mr. Seiler and co-authors Mark Lane of Old Dominion University and Vicky Seiler of Johns Hopkins University led 820 home-buyers through one of six virtual house tours in March 2012. Using professional-grade rendering software created by an architecture firm in Virginia Beach, Va., each house featured either a "neutral" beige wall color or an "unattractive" purple paint color, and "good" furniture, "ugly" furniture or no furniture. The neutral and attractive options were chosen to appeal to the greatest number of people, Mr. Seiler says. The home buyers then reported what they would be willing to pay, as well as their overall impression of the house. (More)
Study will determine impact of tolls in Portsmouth
(The Virginian-Pilot, Dec. 25, 2013)
Everybody has an opinion on how the impending tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels will affect them.
Some say it could cost the typical commuter $1,000 a year.
But what has been missing from the conversation are firm financial numbers.
How much are the tolls really going to affect commuters? How much will they affect businesses in Portsmouth?
Old Dominion University economics professor James V. Koch has been commissioned to find out. The city of Portsmouth hired Koch, the former president of ODU, this month to conduct an economic impact analysis of the tolls on its residents, businesses and the government.
"A lot of people have thrown around some numbers, but it's mostly anecdotal information," Councilman Bill Moody said. "We need Dr. Koch to provide some hard numbers."
Koch, who will be paid $18,000 for the work, will give his analysis to the city by the first week of January.
"What it means, though, is that I'm probably working on Christmas Eve," Koch said, adding that he's been "working like mad. And I've got a couple other people who are working pretty hard on it as well."
Koch is an obvious choice to do the analysis. He is widely considered an expert in assessing the economic condition of Hampton Roads, which he details in an annual "State of the Region" report. (More)
Portsmouth conducts study to determine impact of tolls
(WVEC-TV, Dec. 26, 2013)
An Old Dominion University economics professor is studying how the impending tolls on the Downtown and Midtown in Portsmouth will impact residents, businesses and the government.
The city of Portsmouth hired James V. Koch this month to conduct an economic impact analysis. Koch is the former president of ODU
The Virginian-Pilot reports that Koch will give his analysis to the city by the first week of January.
City leaders will then give it to Portsmouth's legislative delegates for the 2014 session. The hope is that state lawmakers might introduce a bill that would reduce tolls for Portsmouth residents.
The tolls set to start February 1 will help pay for a new tunnel and the renovation of the existing tunnels under a public-private partnership with the state.
Elizabeth River Tunnels says it hopes to have the new Midtown Tunnel and the MLK Extension open to traffic by late fall 2016.
Elizabeth River Tunnels is selling E-ZPass. Get one by January 3 and you'll get 5 free trips through the tunnels.
There are free alternate routes, including the Military Highway Gilmerton Bridge and the High Rise Bridge on Interstate 64 (I-64). (More)
Coordinate on rising seas
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, Dec. 26, 2013)
Hampton Roads' battle against the tide cannot wait for the next 100-year storm.
Sea levels have risen as much as 18 inches in the last century on our shores. Estimates vary, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts the next 100 years could bring as much as another 6.5 feet.
In our area, sinking land compounds the effects of ever more abundant water.
In Norfolk and in Virginia Beach, as in other major cities along the coast, it's only a matter of time until the sea claims thousands of acres of developed land. One major storm could devastate much of our low-lying settlements, as shown by computer simulations created by researchers at Old Dominion University.
And yet, as USAToday reported in a year-long series on the effects of sea level rise, cities like Norfolk, New York and New Orleans that know the wave (or another one) is coming have little ability to obtain federal funds for solutions and protection. That's because most federal programs react to water - funding arrives after the flood. Time that should be spent preparing instead ticks away in arguments over terminology.
Waiting for the next hurricane, nor'easter, even a week of hard rain to come gambles with property and human life. Coastal cities like Norfolk - and Virginia Beach, and Boston, and Savannah, and Charleston, and Miami - must unite to push for a federal plan to cope with the effects of rising oceans. That's true whether politicians call it "global warming" or "climate change" or "sea level rise" or "recurrent flooding" or a "boat sale." (More)
Husband, wife don caps and gowns for ODU commencement ceremony
(New Journal and Guide, Jan. 2, 2014)
A husband and wife, Joseph and Vanessa Hodges, both received degrees during the 119th commencement at Old Dominion University on Dec. 14.
Neither knew their educational journeys would connect on a cold rainy day in ODU's Ted Constant Convocation Center where the husband and wife became two of 1300 ODU grads who graduated in two separate ceremonies. Congressman Scott Rigell delivered the first keynote address. Geoffrey Canada, a renowned anti-poverty and education reform advocate, delivered the second keynote address.
As Vanessa Hodges sat in the audience waiting to receive her degree, she recalled how her father had urged her to enroll at Tidewater Community College. Now she has earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at ODU. Her husband earned his bachelor's degree in math.
"He was a truck driver," she said of her father Johnnie Benson who died in 2008, six months after a stroke and heart attack slowed his steps. "He never had the chance to go to school, because he had a family to support. He was always so excited to hear about how I was doing."
Her father passed before he saw photos of his daughter standing by the Great Wall of China, part of a trip she took last year through Old Dominion University's Confucius Institute. And her father would have been proud of her participation in the school's Model UN Society, which included a visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York City last spring.
Finishing a long educational journey that started with a gentle push from her father, she said, "I promised my dad I would continue my education and graduate with honors." (More)