Five Virginia communities recognized with Economic Development Awards at VEDA Spring Conference in Harrisonburg

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The Town of Pulaski was represented at the event by (front row, from left) Deputy Town Manager Nichole Hair, Town Manager Shawn Utt and Mayor David Clark and (second row, far left) Economic Development Board member Sybil Atkinson.

Town of Pulaski, Powhatan County, James City County and Arlington-Alexandria honored for enhancing economic viability of their communities.

HARRISONBURG, Virginia  The Virginia Economic Developers Association (VEDA) presented the 2019 Community Economic Development Awards (CEDA) to the Town of Pulaski, Powhatan County, James City County, and the Northern Virginia communities of Arlington and Alexandria at its spring conference last week in Harrisonburg. The Roanoke region earned an honorable mention.

The CEDA awards are designed to recognize outstanding communities in the Commonwealth for their efforts in advancing the economic viability of their community through economic and community development programs. Entries are judged on factors including innovativeness, transferability, community commitment, and the benefits derived from the initiative.

The 2019 awardees were narrowed down from a field of 11 nominations that came in from across urban and rural regions of the Commonwealth.

“VEDA’s Community Economic Development Awards program gives us an avenue to recognize each other for outstanding work in our field, while sharing our stories with others so Virginia can thrive,” said Traci Blido, chair of the CEDA’s awards committee. “These community projects and programs spanned across four population categories and were stronger than ever – a true testament to our economic development efforts in the Commonwealth.”

The Town of Pulaski used creative grants to turn blighted buildings into places of business with new jobs and investment. Since 2008, Pulaski’s efforts resulted in 10 new companies moving into the town, more than $10 million in capital investment and the creation of about 100 jobs. Revenues from meals tax went up 40 percent and lodging tax collections increased 400 percent.

Powhatan County earned its award for redefining their community vision to create a strong, diverse economy. The community set out on a year-long vision that resulted in a playbook – an implementation plan – that began in 2018 to build a high-functioning economic development program.

“We commend them for involving experts and assistance to focus on business retention, recruitment, tourism and workforce in a 14-month transformational program,” Blido said.

The work in Powhatan has resulted in 41 commercial project approvals or groundbreakings this past year, dozens of new business leads and a 25-acre mixed use project that is anchored by a granite and marble manufacturing facility that’s projecting a $10 million investment and 100 new jobs.

James City County was recognized for creating a culinary workforce development program that addressed a real need identified in the region.

“The restaurants were really struggling with a lack of qualified workers and they turned to their local economic developer who had the foresight to involve and facilitate the right groups to address the issue,” Blido said.

They created a ChefsGO program – a 13-week classroom and kitchen culinary training program that gives a basic foundation in the culinary arts. In 2019, the program already had 14 young adults being trained by restaurant chefs in their off-hours.

Arlington and Alexandria, home to Virginia’s largest economic development project, Amazon H2Q, was recognized for the coordination that went into aligning the many players and stakeholders required to bring a $2.5 billion employer to the Commonwealth that will ultimately create 25,000 new jobs.

“It is the economic development project of the decade (and) meant pulling out all the stops, thinking outside of every size box, and collaborating with many others to seize the opportunity,” Blido said.

Amazon HQ2 will reside in the Crystal City and Pentagon City portions of National Landing – a joint site that straddles Arlington County and the City of Alexandria – but “in one way or another, all across the state, we are going to benefit from the impact of Amazon coming to Virginia,” Blido said.

The Roanoke region earned its honorable mention for the outdoor brand it’s developed that has taken the regional tourism to a new level.

They “repositioned the minds of million to see the Roanoke Region as a vibrant, outdoor themed mountain mecca with a thriving economy – all through their brilliant outdoor-themed brand campaign that has been integrated into their economic development marketing,” Blido said.

VEDA will submit its eligible winners to the Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC) to be considered by that organization for a southern states regional award.

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