Jack Hornbeck, the longtime CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, announced Wednesday he will retire next year. Hornbeck, 66, has led the chamber for 25 years.
He is credited with helping to develop several programs including the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, a public-private partnership, the Small business Development Center of Hampton Roads, and the Hampton Roads Sports Commission.
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce primarily serves the five southside cities, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Suffolk. On Wednesday, Hornbeck said the region still faces challenges with improving transportation and diversifying its economy.
He also said the region needed to find a way to become less reliant on the Department of Defense to drive its economy. He said looming defense cuts that may hit the region if Congress fails to act could threaten jobs. Federal lawmakers are currently at an impasse as to how to stave off the across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, which are scheduled to take effect at the beginning of the new year. More than $500 billion of defense cuts could be made. Economists at George Mason University estimate more than 200,000 Virginia jobs could be in jeopardy as a result.
"We still have things we need to be concerned about…regardless of sequestration we're not going to be able to forever depend on the Department of Defense to be here so heavily," Hornbeck said.
Deborah Stearns, chair of the chamber's board, praised Hornbeck's efforts during his tenure.
"While there have been many changes in the local business community during Jack's time as President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber, he has not changed his commitment and enthusiasm for the job," Stearns said.
The chamber has a 32-member staff and operating budget of $2.1 million. Nearly 2,000 businesses are represented by the organization. Hornbeck's retirement will be effective in September of 2013.