Regional Economic Development Agency Unveils Strategic Plan

September 12, 2016 / Current News

ETTRICK — If Virginia’s Gateway Region were receiving a performance review, its rating for the past five years would have to be “exceeds expectations.” And if that track record is any indication, Central Virginia can look forward to thousands of new jobs and close to $1 billion in investments in the next five years.

The state’s oldest regional economic development organization rolled out its new five-year plan on Monday in a presentation at Virginia State University to local business and community leaders. The plan, called “Driving Economic Growth and Embracing a Global Future 3.0,” or Global 3.0 for short, sets specific and aggressive goals for the next five years:

• Fifty company announcements of new businesses coming to the region or existing businesses expanding.

• A total of $700 million in new capital investments.

• An additional $150 million in foreign direct investment.

• Creation of 3,000 new jobs.

Achieving those goals will require some investments by local governments and businesses, and Monday’s presentation was also the kickoff of a campaign to raise $5 million to help make sure the region is ready when companies come looking.

When it was founded in 1960 and known as the Appomattox Basin Industrial Development Corp., Gateway was “totally supported by public funding to promote industrial development,” noted Renee Chapline, the agency’s president and CEO. “Fast-forward, we are now a public-private partnership, primarily funded by the private sector.”

In fact, 75 percent of Gateway’s funding comes from the agency’s business partners, according to Victor K. Branch, Richmond region market president for Bank of America and co-chair of the fundraising campaign.

Branch, a Dinwiddie County native, said the Global 3.0 plan emerged through extensive research and consultations with area business and government leaders, starting last November. “In March, a committee of business and community leaders reviewed all the information obtained during the study and crafted the Global 3.0 final strategic plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the fundraising has already begun and is well past the halfway point, according to Patsy Stuard, CEO of Fort Lee Federal Credit Union. “To date, we have already received $3.1 million in commitments to fund this program,” she said. “This represents 62 percent of our campaign goal.”

The funds will be used to build five “pillars” to support the region’s ability to compete both nationally and globally in attracting deals:

• Business expansion and location needs ($2.2 million). The funds will be used to help coordinate business retention and expansion programs, provide a “one-stop shop” for business prospects, pay for “select international missions to seek potential foreign direct investment,” among other things.

• Regional awareness and message ($1.45 million). Increase awareness of the region and market it to potential investors.

• Human capital and talent retention ($750,000). Support education and workforce development, help companies recruit and train workers, and expand research on workforce trends and employers’ needs.

• Infrastructure development and preparedness ($350,000). Perform and deliver research on the region’s infrastructure assets and needs, and work with local governments to help make sure regional infrastructure remains attractive to businesses.

• Quality of place and regional lifestyle ($250,000). “Quality of place and lifestyle amenities are a powerful decision-driver that not only attracts a variety of businesses, but is critical to retaining and attracting residents and further infrastructure and development,” according to a campaign brochure.

The expected return on those investments is sizable, said Daniel D. Lee, a member of the Dinwiddie County Board of Supervisors.

Based on economic modelling, “this plan should result in $190 million of additional consumer expenditures annually across all categories,” Lee said. Within that total, he said, the region can look forward to additional annual spending of $63.7 million for housing, $25.3 million for food and $13 million in added sales and property taxes paid to local governments, and $5.9 million in contributions to nonprofit groups.

Based on Gateway’s performance during its more recently finished five-year plan, those figures may represent the minimum expectations. Between 2011 and 2015, the agency blew the doors off its own goals, helping draw an announced $3.4 billion in total capital investment, more than five times the goal of $650 million. The number of new jobs announced was likewise about five times the group’s goal: 10,785 vs. a goal of 2,200.

Virginia’s Gateway Region helps promote economic development in the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg and the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Surry and Sussex.