By Tim Ryan

Recent findings from a comprehensive study by the Hampton Roads Executive Roundtable and the Hampton Roads Workforce Council have revealed alarming outmigration trends from the Hampton Roads region. This study, conducted in partnership with Fahrenheit Advisors, aims to uncover the underlying factors driving this exodus, particularly among individuals in their early- to mid-career stages and start-up companies.

Key Findings and Insights

The data indicates a clear pattern of outmigration, predominantly among younger adults in their twenties and thirties. The research identified several critical factors influencing residents’ decisions to leave the area:

  1. Cost of Living and Housing: One of the most significant drivers of outmigration is the rising cost of living and housing. Many respondents cited affordability issues as a primary reason for considering relocation. Interestingly, “Boomerangs”—individuals who return to the area after living elsewhere—often cite the cost of living as a reason for their return, suggesting a complex relationship between cost and quality of life.
  2. Safety and Crime: A pervasive sense of security is crucial for resident satisfaction. The study highlighted safety concerns as a major factor influencing the decision to leave Hampton Roads. Areas like Newport News and Norfolk were perceived as less safe than their surroundings, exacerbating the outmigration issue.
  3. Career Opportunities: The availability of jobs and career prospects is another critical factor. Many residents expressed dissatisfaction with the job market, feeling that the region does not offer sufficient opportunities for professional growth. This sentiment was particularly strong among private sector employees and remote workers.
  4. Healthcare Accessibility: While not as prominent as other factors, the availability and quality of healthcare services also play a significant role in residents’ decisions to stay or leave. The satisfaction gap in healthcare services contributes to the overall migration trends.
  5. Community Involvement: The study found a strong correlation between community engagement and the likelihood of staying in the region. Individuals actively involved in community activities and events are likelier to remain, underscoring the importance of fostering a vibrant, inclusive community.

Who is Leaving and Why?

The demographic most likely to leave includes younger, non-military individuals without children. These residents often work remotely and move to the area as adults. Their reasons for leaving are multifaceted, with the cost of living, career opportunities, and safety being the primary concerns. The study also revealed that those who moved to Hampton Roads as adults are more likely to leave, while “Boomerangs” and those with family ties to the region are more inclined to stay.

Recommendations and Actionable Steps

To address these pressing issues, the study suggests several actionable steps:

  • Invest in Housing and Living Costs: Addressing affordability issues through housing policies and cost-of-living adjustments is essential.
  • Enhance Safety Measures: Implementing and promoting effective safety measures can improve residents’ perceptions of security.
  • Boost Career Opportunities: Developing initiatives to attract and retain businesses and enhancing job opportunities is crucial.
  • Improve Healthcare Services: Ensuring accessible and high-quality healthcare can reduce significant satisfaction gaps.
  • Foster Community Engagement: Encouraging community involvement through events and local activities can strengthen residents’ connection to the region.

The study highlights that despite the region’s potential, significant work remains to create a unified, thriving community that retains its residents and fosters economic growth. Addressing these issues with urgency is not just an option but a necessity for the future of Hampton Roads.