Bob Aston urged listeners to think of themselves as victors, not victims.
"Your success is up to you," said Aston, chief executive and chairman of the board of TowneBank. "I would challenge you all to go out and make 2011 a great year."
That theme of hope was echoed Tuesday by panelists and organizers of the Advancing Together Virginia Peninsula Business Forecast 2011 at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. About 650 people registered for the event, which was sponsored by the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Peninsula Association of Realtors, Peninsula Housing & Builders Association and Retail Alliance.
Hampton Roads had a milder recession and housing bubble, compared to the nation, said Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors chief economist.
Nationally, "overly stringent" credit standards are keeping people from buying homes, he said. Plus, buyers are reluctant to buy if they think prices will drop more.
There's pent-up demand to buy, based on the fact that the population has grown by 27 million over 10 years but sales are on par with sales levels 10 years ago. Eventually, college kids who moved back home and singles who took on roommates will move out. "Familiarity breeds contempt," Yun said jokingly.
What's unusual is that business spending isn't rebounding, though corporate profits are at pre-recession levels. Some blame the government, because health care legislation will be costly to businesses and banks are unsure of upcoming regulatory changes. Others say government should further stimulate the economy.
But that shouldn't come in the form of another first-time homebuyer tax credit, which was offered for part of 2009 and 2010. "We need to let the market continue its own course," Yun said.
In a panel discussion, Aston said interest rates remain low and consumer spending is going up.
"In 2011, you're going to see all the banks, they're going to be back in the market competing for your money," he said.
Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance president and chief executive Darryl W. Gosnell said 44 companies since 2008 announced new or expanded operations on the Peninsula, representing investments of $1.6 billion and creating 5,062 new jobs. (That doesn't take into account thousands of layoffs that occurred over the same time frame.)
Retail sales on the Peninsula are growing, Norfolk-based retail researcher H. Blount Hunter said. The Peninsula has seen a quarter-over-quarter sales increase for all of 2010. Sales of motor vehicle and parts have rebounded, and quarter-over-quarter restaurant sales were down only once in the last three years, Hunter said.
Building materials sales — stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot — plunged and have not rebounded, he said.
Details for scaling back Joint Forces Command are expected within the next month or so, said Craig Quigley, executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance. For now, it appears about half of the jobs will remain.
There's an effort to set up a "green" aviation center of excellence at NASA Langley. The public-private partnership would attract businesses to convert research center discoveries into business applications, he said.
About 70 percent of the region's economy depends on the military, tourism, the port and maritime industries, said Hampton Roads Partnership president and chief executive E. Dana Dickens III. The region's economy could be diversified in areas such as sensors, robotics, aeronautics and modeling and simulation.
"It's as important how we recover, as when we recover," Dickens said. "Let's innovate our way to a new economy."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times