CHESAPEAKE - Economic forecasters call it the new paradigm in Hampton Roads employment and population growth.

For many years, growth has typically favored cities on the Peninsula, like Newport News and Hampton, and those east of the Elizabeth River on Southside, including Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

For the first time since the Hampton Roads Business Roundtable started forecasting economic growth, cities west of the Elizabeth River - Portsmouth, Suffolk and Chesapeake - are projected to take 50% of the growth in the next 20 years. During the last forecast four years ago, cities on the Peninsula doubled the growth expected on cities west of the Elizabeth.

Experts say land availablity, port activity and changes in infrastructure and transportation are the biggest factors influencing the change.

Director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization Dwight Farmer said the numbers came as a surprise.

'We didn't realize it would be this quick,' Farmer said.

Farmer says based on the numbers now, we can expect to see population and job growth in west-southside cities equivalent to the size of Virginia Beach in the next 20 years.

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