by John G. Merna
The financial woes of the federal government and the continued soft real estate market are two signs that the economy in Hampton Roads is still struggling to climb out of the recession. However, there is at least one indicator that seems to signal economic recovery. That indicator is an 18 percent drop in consumer bankruptcy filings in the Norfolk Bankruptcy Court.
From January to March 2013, 787 Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases were filed in the Norfolk court and 412 Chapter 13 cases were filed. Last year at the same time 931 Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases and 524 Chapter 13 cases were filed. This does not include filings for Chapter 11, which is a debt reorganization for companies and large debt holders.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court is located in the U.S. District Court, 600 Granby Street, 4th Floor, Norfolk, VA 23510. The Norfolk Division is presided over by Chief Judge Stephen St. John and Judge Frank Santoro.
The Norfolk Bankruptcy Division includes filings from the following cities and counties: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Franklin, Courtland, Isle of Wight, Accomack and Northampton counties. The Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach metropolitan area is the 36th largest metropolitan area in the country with an estimated population of 1.7 million people.
Almost 80% of the region’s economy is derived from federal funds due to the large military and federal government presence. The region has the largest concentration of military bases and facilities of any metropolitan area in the world. Nearly one-fourth of the nation’s active-duty military personnel are stationed in Hampton Roads, and 45% of the region’s $81B gross regional output is defense-related. Recently, many of the civilian government employees have received furlough notifications. The impact of these layoffs is yet to be determined.