Brain Gain

The goal of GNC’s Brain Gain Initiative, which is now part of our Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Initiative, is to attract and retain young talent to Norfolk and the region.  With the assistance of the ODU Social Science Research Center, we conducted a survey of young professionals in the spring of 2011 to better understand the perceptions and expectations of young professionals regarding Norfolk and the region and to help inform an action agenda to attract and retain young professionals. While the survey is now nearly six years old, many of the findings are still relevant today.

An overwhelming majority of survey respondents identified solving congestion, particularly between the Southside and the Peninsula, as either important or extremely important.  GNC strongly supported the creation of the Hampton Roads Accountability Commission (HRTPC) and the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund (HRTF), which has enabled Segments 1 & 2 of the I-64 Peninsula Widening to begin construction and the for the following projects to proceed to construction:

  • Expansion of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT)
  • I-64 Peninsula Widening – Segment 3
  • I-64 High-Rise Bridge Widening
  • I-64/I-264 interchange improvements

Likewise, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents indicated support for passenger rail service from Norfolk to D.C. and beyond and for expanding light rail to Virginia Beach.  There is now passenger rail service (one round trip daily) from Norfolk to D.C. and beyond, and two additional round trips are slated for Norfolk in the future; one in 2019 and one in 2022.  GNC strongly supports funding for Richmond/Hampton Roads High Speed Passenger Rail Tier Two SEIS, which must be completed in order to access future federal infrastructure monies that would enable improvements in the corridor to increase reliability and reduce trip time.  Respondents also strongly supported adding bike lanes and bike paths to make biking a more viable transportation option and GNC continues to support adding bike lanes and additional bike/pedestrian paths in Norfolk, and to look for opportunities to partner with our counterpart organizations in support of regional trails.

Survey respondents also ranked what they believed should be the top priorities for Hampton Roads to become a magnet that attracts young, creative entrepreneurial people and retain talented college graduates and personnel leaving military service.  In addition to fixing the area’s transportation problems, expanding the types of jobs available in Norfolk and the region and increasing support for entrepreneurs and people who want to start new businesses were all highly ranked.


GNC Brain Gain Survey


A.  General Observations

  •  77% response to the survey from 30 and under and 31 – 40 years of age, our main target group (total 996)
  • 44% and 56% gender response with the majority of responses from young women
  • Approximately 83% of respondents lived or did live in Hampton Roads
  • 18% of young professionals surveyed lived in Hampton Roads less than 5 years
  • 83% of responses were from college graduates
  • Approximately 10% of respondents were current college graduates
  • Approximately 44% attended college in Hampton Roads
  • Approximately 1/3 of respondents felt that the local economy provided the opportunity for young adults to consider job opportunities in Norfolk
  • Approximately 1/3 of respondents felt that there were opportunities for quick promotions in the Norfolk job market
  • Approximately 1/3 of young professionals considered themselves “boomer-angers”
  • 47% wanted to remain in Hampton Roads for the future
  • An additional 20% would remain for the right job
  • 10% would consider leaving the area for the right job


B.  Quality of Life (what did like about Norfolk and the region)

  • Quality educational opportunities
  • Transportation options
  • Wide variety of recreational/outdoor activities
  • Variety of retail stores
  • Quality lifestyle
  • Strong culture & arts


C.  Areas to improve

  • Job opportunities
  • Competitive salaries
  • Public transportation options
  • Affordable housing options


D.  Important Transportation Issues

  • 81% identified passenger rail to D.C./NY/Boston
  • 85% identified expanding light rail to Virginia Beach
  • 87% identified solving traffic congestion
  • 67% identified adding bike lanes/paths


E.  Appealing to Young Professionals

  •  Fixing the transportation issues
  • More jobs with career tracks
  • More competitive salaries


F.  Changing Perspectives About Quality of Life in Norfolk

  • Encourage independent businesses
  • Create a sense of place
  • Increase pedestrian friendliness