By Renee Chapline, The Progress-Index
Over a year after its launch in July 2015, the Virginia Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia) Board held its inaugural meeting last month to discuss their ambitious plan to jumpstart Virginia’s economy.
After suffering several federal budget cuts in recent years, the state launched GO Virginia to decrease the economy’s dependence on federal and public sector spending and instead focus efforts on private sector growth through state-funded programming.
Instead of a locality-by-locality strategy, GO Virginia approaches economic development on a regional level, incentivizing individual cities and counties to work together rather than compete for projects. This plan promotes a collaboration of individual communities’ strengths while recognizing that assets and needs vary regionally across Virginia.
In their inaugural meeting, the GO Virginia Board elected leadership and discussed the formation of regional councils during the 2017 fiscal year. There are no size limits to the nine regional councils; however, each must have representation from a diverse group of community sectors including education, government and nonprofit, among others.
Beginning in the 2018 fiscal year, regional councils can submit top-priority project applications to the GO Virginia board to be considered for funding. To receive grant money for a six-year period, representatives from the government, education and private sectors in two or more communities must share the project. Additionally, each project must result in at least 200 new jobs paying at or above average wage with a capital investment of at least $200 million.
GO Virginia boasts a coalition of 8,100 members with support from over 50 local and regional organizations, 12 statewide organizations and all of Virginia’s public colleges and universities, including the Virginia Community College System.
Currently the board is in the process of defining guidelines to establish measures for how regional projects will be chosen for grant funding.
As an economic development organization working with eight communities, it is exciting for Virginia’s Gateway Region to see the state adopting a program that promotes regional collaboration. Each of the Gateway Region’s eight communities hold their own unique assets, and I look forward to working as a region with our stakeholders to combine those strengths and ultimately welcome increased growth and prosperity.