By Patrick Wilson, Richmond Times-Dispatch
A 25-member council in the Richmond region that will identify projects to receive public money through a new state program includes some well-connected, deep-pocketed names with the ability to open the eyes of politicians.
They include William H. Goodwin Jr., hotelier and rector of the University of Virginia board of visitors, and Richard Cullen, chairman of the law firm McGuireWoods.
They’re among nominees for one of nine new regional councils that are part of a program called GO Virginia.
The General Assembly and Gov. Terry McAuliffe approved the program in 2016. A 24-member board that sits atop the proposed nine regional councils will meet Tuesday; the regional council rosters are subject to approval from the big board.
The big board includes lawmakers, gubernatorial appointees and players from the business community — including some of the lawmakers’ major donors. It’s led by Dubby Wynne, a retired media executive from Virginia Beach.
The concept is to work like this: The business-led regional councils will apply for state funding for ideas that involve collaboration among business, education and government. That could include such things as workforce development or career and technical education. The big board would then decide which projects to fund.
Supporters of the concept say it will create collaboration that leads to high-paying jobs in a state trying to diversify its economy.
The GO Virginia program is housed in the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The Region 4 proposal, which includes Richmond, calls for Goodwin to be its chairman.
His family company, The Riverstone Group, owns The Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond, the Keswick Hall & Golf Club in Albemarle County and other high-end hotels.
Since 1996, he has given more than $1.6 million to Virginia politicians, campaigns and political action committees, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Cullen, of McGuireWoods, was Virginia attorney general in 1997 and 1998 and is a previous U.S. attorney for Virginia’s Eastern District.
McGuireWoods has made nearly $3 million in political contributions in Virginia since 1996, according to VPAP. The consulting arm of McGuireWoods provided public relations and lobbying for GO Virginia, paid for by the nonprofit Virginia Business Higher Education Council.
Other members of the regional council would include:
- Mark Hourigan, CEO of Hourigan Construction, which built Stone Brewing’s production facility in Richmond and is the lead contractor for Dominion Virginia Power’s new downtown high-rise;
- John Luke, non-executive chairman of packaging giant WestRock Co.;
- Michael Rao, president of Virginia Commonwealth University;
- Carter Reid, senior vice president, chief administrative and compliance officer and corporate secretary at Dominion; and
- Kim Scheeler, president and CEO of ChamberRVA and a member of the Virginia Port Authority board of commissioners.
The legislature last year funded the GO Virginia program at $35.5 million over two years.
This year, McAuliffe proposed cutting that amount by about $15 million. Lawmakers opted to cut the amount in the two-year budget by half that, or $7.5 million, meaning the program is funded at about $28 million in the two-year budget.
Of that, $3.6 million in fiscal 2017 is for organizational setup.
Nominees for GO Virginia’s Region 4 Council:
- Sherrie Armstrong, president and CEO, the Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia
- Victor Branch, market president, Bank of America
- John William “Will” Clements, vice president and investment officer, Bank of Southside Virginia
- Richard Cullen, chairman, McGuireWoods LLP
- Moses Foster, CEO, West Cary Group
- William H. Goodwin Jr., chairman emeritus, CCA Industries Inc. and The Riverstone Group LLC
- Jennifer Hunter, senior vice president/communications and corporate citizenship, Altria Client Services LLC
- Mark Hourigan, CEO, Hourigan Construction
- John Luke, non-executive chairman, WestRock
- Mark E. Moore, optometrist and owner, Crater Vision Center
- Barry Matherly, president and CEO, Greater Richmond Partnership
- Jon Mathiasen, president and CEO, Capital Region Airport Commission, the owner and operator of Richmond International Airport
- Michael Rao, president, Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health System
- Edward “Ted” Raspiller, president, John Tyler Community College
- Gary L. Rhodes, president, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
- Carter Reid, senior vice president, chief administrative and compliance officer and corporate secretary, Dominion Resources
- Carrie Roth, president and CEO, Virginia BioTechnology Research Park
- Winston T. Sanders, director of engineering and facilities, Boar’s Head Provisions plants in Greensville and Prince George counties
- Kim Scheeler, president, ChamberRVA
- Martha Shickle, executive director, Richmond Regional Planning District Commission
- Natalie Slate, deputy administrator/director of economic development, Greensville County
- Lorin S. Sodell, plant manager, Rolls-Royce North America
- Paul Tuck, plant manager, Ashland Inc. in Hopewell
- John Vithoulkas, Henrico County manager
- Renee Williams, Prince George County schools superintendent