Statement to the Fort Monroe Authority by E. Dana Dickens, III, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Partnership (Download PDF)
There is no question that the preservation of Fort Monroe is important for our region as the Commonwealth of Virginia takes ownership of the waterfront site this September (2011). Not only is this a beautiful piece of land, it is also, as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said of the stone fort, “it is one of our nation’s special historic and cultural treasures, and we must work together to ensure this place is preserved for future generations.”
Vision Hampton Roads, the first region-wide Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) in compliance with the federal Economic Development Administration, is helping us effectively navigate our metro area’s course to the future. Opportunities, like the one we find with Fort Monroe, can help us with the goals of Vision, to transform the region into a dynamic place to live by working through cooperative initiatives.
During the CEDS public comment period, the nearly 500 citizens participating were adamant about preserving Fort Monroe in support of this objective: that Hampton Roads will be the premier year-round destination of distinction and appeal to travelers while significantly increasing quality of life for residents by leveraging the variety of attractions, arts and culture, venues and performances and recreational opportunities that exist in the region.
Hampton Roads is already a popular vacation destination for millions of visitors annually. Each city has its own unique attractions, events and activities. From the surf and sand of Virginia Beach, longest pleasure beach in the world, to the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, to the attractive convention centers spread throughout the region, Hampton Roads is an established multi-faceted tourist destination. According to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, tourists spent in excess of $3.7 billion in Hampton Roads in 2007. The Leisure and Hospitality industry employed 85,400 people in Hampton Roads, adding over 6,000 positions in the last three years to make it the second fastest growing employment sector in the region. In addition to the hoteliers who depend on tourists to fill their rooms, tourism brings extensive new money to restaurants, retail establishments and government coffers.
Fort Monroe is not just a local or regional treasure. It is truly a national treasure.
Tourism does impact practically all area businesses, contributing to quality of life through the influx of tax revenue, creation of jobs and rise of services and attractions that add to the vibrancy of life in Hampton Roads. Tourism supports the development and enhancement of amenities that local business employees and residents can enjoy. For businesses in Hampton Roads, that means improved recruiting and retention of work force talent and greater quality of life for those employees.
This nonpartisan public movement to have Fort Monroe added to the National Park Service to ensure the natural beauty and rich history of the site is preserved is important – and not just from an economic point of view.
Fort Monroe is home to so many stories vital to American history, from some of the first interactions of settlers with Native Americans to African American freedom in the Civil War. With Fort Monroe, it is important to look not only to its multi-faceted past, but also towards the future it can produce for the Hampton Roads region.
There are already parks at Jamestown and Yorktown. As the regional organization representing over one-half of Hampton Roads’ labor force, I encourage the National Park Service to add Fort Monroe to the park system and complete America’s birth story.
E. Dana Dickens, III
President and CEO, Hampton Roads Partnership
Providing strategic leadership and improving Hampton Roads’ competitive position in the global economy. Learn more at http://VisionHamptonRoads.com.