GO Virginia Region 2 Collaborates on Growth and Diversification Plan to Guide Future Investment

Sara Dunnigan, deputy director of GO Virginia and Economic Development at the Virginia Department of Community Housing and Development, provides opening remarks at the Growth and Diversification Plan kick-off meeting.

On August 18, leaders from across Region 2 gathered in Roanoke to discuss revisions to the 2021 GO Virginia Region 2 Growth and Diversification Plan. The meeting began with opening remarks and was followed by four concurrent workgroup sessions, focused on GO Virginia Region 2’s four investment strategy areas: Talent, Entrepreneurship, Cluster Scale Up, and Sites and Infrastructure.

For fiscal year 2022, GO Virginia Region 2 has 2.2 million dollars in funding. “The Growth and Diversification Plan will guide our allocation of funds for the next two years,” said GO Virginia Region 2 chair Ray Smoot. “We live in a world where change is always amongst us. It’s important that our plan is updated to reflect the current situation.”

“You’re here today to help us write our next chapter,” said GO Virginia Region 2 vice-chair Eddie Amos. “Let’s think about where we’ve been, what’s worked, what’s not worked, and what areas we can improve.”

35 GO Virginia Region 2 projects have been approved by the state, which is the highest number of any of the nine regional councils across the commonwealth. This has resulted in about $14 million dollars of investment in the region, from GO Virginia and local sources.

However, even before the effects of the pandemic, the growth in the region lagged behind the state and the nation. The population growth in the last five years has risen by just 1% and jobs in the region have declined by 2.8%.

“We’re off to a great start, but we need to make some adjustments and embrace the circumstances in which we find ourselves to revise our plan,” Smoot said.

“We’ve seen some really innovative partnerships between universities and entrepreneurs that have the potential to form the foundation of future efforts. Region 2 is so blessed to have a large number of universities. The ability to access university or college assets and pull them into this kind of work is significant,” said Sara Dunnigan, deputy director of GO Virginia and Economic Development at the Virginia Department of Community Housing and Development.

Capital access, mentorship, and training and education continue to be priorities for entrepreneurs in the region, said Luke Towles, council co-chair for the entrepreneurship workgroup. His workgroup discussed looking for ways to give underserved entrepreneurs the resources they need to start their business and also talked about educating entrepreneurial support organizations on different types of capital.

Working together to address common problems across industries and companies was a key focus of the Cluster Scale Up workgroup. “There are collective problems that multiple businesses experience in the region. These can be addressed if we articulate a vision for the emerging or growing industry clusters in the area,” said John Provo, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement.

The Sites and Infrastructure workgroup discussed the possibility for GO Virginia Region 2 to support engineering and architecture costs, as well as sewer and gas expansion. Individuals also shared ideas about an autonomous vehicle support infrastructure that could help target industries and set the region apart, said Ashley Posthumus, economic development specialist for the Center for Economic and Community Engagement.

In the talent workgroup, individuals discussed present challenges, particularly relating to COVID-19, and opportunities around upscaling the workforce and better connecting employees to jobs.

A second round of workgroup sessions has been scheduled for September to refine the strategies discussed during the kick-off meeting. The dates and registration information for each workgroup session are listed below.

Talent Workgroup Session
Thursday, September 9, 2021 10:00-11:30 A.M.
Register for this meeting.

Entrepreneurship Workgroup Session
Thursday, September 9, 2021 10:00-11:30 A.M.
Register for this meeting.

Cluster Scale Up Workgroup Session
Thursday, September 9, 2021 10:00-11:30 A.M.
Register for this meeting.

Sites and Infrastructure Workgroup Session
Monday, September 13, 2021 2:00-3:30 P.M.
Register for this meeting.

Next, three regional meetings, in the New River Valley, Roanoke-Alleghany, and Lynchburg areas, will take place. Staff will present strategies at these meetings and receive feedback from the public.

During the GO Virginia Council Meeting on October 27th, the Growth and Diversification Plan will be reviewed and edited, and on October 30th, the plan will be submitted to the state.

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