Staff Report, The Progress Index
CHESTERFIELD — A 10-year evaluation of Virginia’s Gateway Region has found that the economic development group is among the best in the nation.
Sustained Impact of Boston, Massachusetts, an independent evaluator fully funded by the Cameron Foundation recently completed the study. The in-depth study was conducted to thoroughly examine the VGR’s practices and procedures and construct a benchmark of the organization’s effects on economic development compared to other economic development groups across the nation.
The study stated that the VGR had “undergone dramatic transformation over the past decade” effectively becoming a global outreach vehicle for the region. The International Economic Development Council, the largest global non-profit membership organization of its kind based out of Washington, D.C., has developed the most widely accepted standard of best practice guidelines for the industry. The Sustained Impact study determined that the VGR has utilized many of these practices.
The results of the study were presented to the public at a luncheon held at the John Tyler Community College in Chester. There it was reported that the independent group had thoroughly analyzed material generated from the VGR including publications, in-house tracking metrics and articles along with reviewing various articles pertaining to the VGR. In addition, Sustained Impact also conducted interviews with VGR representatives as well as hosting consultations with economic development, workforce development and community development experts, reviewed professional publications specific to economic development in an effort to compare VGR’s efforts and performance to the industry nationwide.
The VGR reported 10,785 jobs were created in new and existing businesses; a number substantially higher than its 2,200 job creation target. Victor Branch, VGR Chairman and Richmond Market President of Bank of America said, “This report verifies that VGR’s practices, activities and results are among the best in the nation as benchmarked against three nationally-recognized regional economic development organizations. The intensive review of the organization’s major investments from The Cameron Foundation, communities and private stakeholders has been in essence a game changer for the region and the organizational use of those funds was in line with other successful programs around the nation.”
The three nationally-recognized regional economic development organizations Branch referred to were selected by Sustained Impact from similar markets in Virginia and North Carolina. The study also concluded that the VGR had reported more announcements, job creations and capital investments from 2014 through 2015 than any of the other economic development organizations reviewed. And the VGR had done so with a noticeably smaller budget and fewer employees; reinforcing the findings of the VGR’s efficiency and effectiveness in regional economic development.
“I would like to thank the Cameron Foundation for funding this study and for their long-term support of the organization. This is a unique opportunity that validates the commitment of our Board of Directors and our communities to our business climate and the support we must provide to our business base in our region” said VGR President and CEO Renee Chapline. “This report provides us with a sturdy business case proving that our work is intentional, effective, and most importantly, that what we do for our eight communities truly matters.”