NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy's presence here is huge, and it's growing, according to the Commander Navy Region Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday.

New data for Fiscal year '17 shows that the Navy's total economic impact for the area was $13.4 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion from the previous year.

18-28 Economic Impact (FY2017) by 13News Now on Scribd

The number of active duty personnel increased by more than 5,000 people.

"I think at the end of the day, this is good news for Hampton Roads," said the director of the Old Dominion University's Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, Bob McNab. "It shows that we are a strong component of national security, and that is a foundation we can leverage for future growth."

In addition, Hampton Roads also saw an increase in the size of the locally-based Navy fleet.

Locally it jumped from 67 to 68 ships, with the addition of the L.A. Class submarine USS San Francisco and her crew of around 120 sailors.

All this good news arrives as the region braces for the possible exit of Fortune 500 company Norfolk Southern.

While that wouldn't be a desirable development, the Navy's continued robust presence most certainly softens the blow, according to McNab.

"It's a give and take," he said. "If Norfolk Southern actually moves to Atlanta, that would obviously be a psychological blow. On the other hand, the Navy report shows how important we are to national security. And we have essentially re-established ourselves in terms of the Navy's home-porting by gaining a ship and the personnel from that ship and the families associated with the ship. So, overall, this is a net benefit to the Hampton Roads community."

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