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The leader of Virginia’s state authority created to encourage and stimulate development and business expansion said Wednesday that strategic “partnerships are everything in the competition” for jobs today.
Martin Briley, president and chief executive of Virginia Economic Development Partnership, made his remarks during a luncheon keynote address for the Danville Economic Development Summit at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville.
"VEDP remains committed to partnering with its allies, looking for better ways to align resources and finding opportunities for collaboration,” Briley said. “Partnerships are everything in the competition (for jobs) today. We cannot underscore that enough.”
He said VEDP serves as Virginia’s business welcome center, global gateway for Virginia companies, and ally for Virginia communities in economic development. The authority has launched a “Going Global” initiative and is well deployed throughout the world, with recently added staff in Europe and China.
Virginia is widely recognized for its business climate and economic development attributes, he said. Forbes magazine named Virginia as the “Best State for Business in 2013.”
“We have business-first values, easy access to domestic and global markets, and we are prepositioned in a global marketplace that we think is poised to expand,” Briley said.
He said one key to future success is to develop more leads on companies looking to expand or start. A second key is to serve as ambassadors for Virginia at every opportunity.
“A single voice can shape the future,” Briley said. “Help us promote greater prosperity in Virginia by sharing why we’re the best state for business. We need you to be that voice."
VEDP was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1995 to encourage and stimulate development and business expansion in Virginia. The organization is a state authority that is governed by a 23-member board of directors appointed by the governor and the General Assembly.
Briley’s keynote address was part of a daylong summit held by the city of Danville and the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce to develop strategies to achieve the goal of transforming Danville's economy into a new regional economy that is modern, forward-focused, diversified and entrepreneurial.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine is scheduled to deliver a dinner keynote address.
In addition to the keynote presentations, the summit included sessions on employment statistics and assets that shape Danville’s current economy, economic development relationships that help generate prospects and new projects, and economic engines that bring outside populations to Danville and generate tax revenue.
Panel sessions were held on business development and education and workforce training. Recent development in the River District and future plans for revitalizing the downtown and tobacco warehouse district also will be highlighted.
City Manager Joe King said the challenge is to help grow current businesses and attract new businesses.
“It is highly competitive. We're competing with 39,000 cities and towns around the country," King said. “At the end of the day, we are hoping you have exposure to what the Danville Economic Development Office is doing. We are hoping you will assist us.”
Linwood Wright, former mayor and now a consultant for the Danville Economic Development Office, talked about challenges, including unemployment higher than the state average, low median household income, aging workforce and low education levels.
“We are still looking for jobs,” said Wright, noting the city’s unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, according to the latest figures available. “We are poor, we are not particularly well educated and we are getting older.”
However, Wright said quality of life is important, and Danville’s quality of life is competitive. The Dan River, he said is a major asset, and he noted attractions such as the Danville Science Museum, the Danville History of Fine Arts and History and Millionaire’s Row.
Wright also said Danville’s location is an asset. The city is within a day’s drive to 60 percent of nation’s population. He noted the proximity to the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, the Port of Virginia, airports and major colleges and universities.
“We have a short permitting process, one-stop utilities and municipally owned utilities and broadband,” Wright said. “These are assets we need to preserve and protect.”
Land is inexpensive, the climate is moderate, and the city has strong partners, including the Danville Regional Foundation, Wright said.
“We have major assets,” Wright said. “I think our future is bright. I think we will turn around. We have to have every one of you becoming a major sales person for this community. Let’s stop the naysayers and get on with developing the economy.”
The summit addressed the role of partnerships in economic development throughout the day.
“Nothing is more competitive than economic development. It is not a destination. It is a journey,” Wright said. “We have had significant developments in working with our partners.”
Wright mentioned the Virginia Economic Development Partnership at the state level; regional partners in Pittsylvania County, the Regional Industrial Facility Authority, Eden, N.C., and the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance; and local partners in the Danville Industrial Development Authority, Danville Development Authority, city of Danville departments and the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.
“Without you as a partner, we are not going to win this game,” Wright said. “There is not a magic wand that you can wave, but there is a role that every one of you can play. You don’t realize when you will have an opportunity to market Danville. You are a part of the partnership of the future of Danville. You are a member of the team. You will have a chance to make a difference. Look for that chance. When you see it, grab.”