ABINGDON, Va. — Regional business leaders and legislators touted a new partnership announced Thursday, seeking to lure more technology jobs to Southwest Virginia.
“It’s committed to advancing big ideas,” said Will Payne, managing partner of Coalfield Strategies LLC, a marketing firm based in Bristol, Virginia.
Payne is now the project lead for the Southwest Virginia Regional Marketing Initiative, dubbed “InvestSWVA.”
“We will focus on energy innovation and the future of work in Southwest Virginia, attracting and retaining young talent by focusing on high-tech, high-wage jobs that keep GO Virginia Region One a priority,” Payne said at a Thursday news conference, held at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon.
The project spans the entire GO Virginia Region One footprint — from the coalfield counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Scott, Wise, Tazewell and Russell in the west to the agricultural-based mountains and valleys of Washington, Grayson, Smyth, Wythe, Carroll and Bland counties in the east. That region also includes the cities of Bristol, Norton and Galax.
Funding for the public-private partnership stands at $800,000 for two years, with an annual $400,000 a year coming from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, combined with a private match from Point Broadband LLC, Payne said.
“The funding is for two years, making this initiative aggressive, focused and dependent on results,” Payne said.
According to Payne, InvestSWVA is slated to target industry clusters: advanced manufacturing; agriculture and forestry, including food and beverage; information and emerging technologies; and energy and minerals.
This strategic economic development marketing operation is set to be driven by Coalfield Strategies LLC, in partnership with the region’s members of the Virginia General Assembly, said state Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City.
“It’s going to leverage business leaders, state and local government officials [and] economic development agencies to develop viable business prospects for our area,” Kilgore said. “I’m thrilled that we’re announcing this initiative today and looking forward to some quick wins.”
A key component of the initiative is a partnership with the Northern Virginia Technology Council, a trade association for the technology community in Northern Virginia (NOVA).
“Southwest Virginia will have a seat at the table with NOVA-based tech companies that want to tap into a new labor force,” Payne said.
Companies in Northern Virginia have often made inquiries on where else they could expand while still staying in Virginia, Payne added. “They’ve been hearing from their companies about diversifying the workforce.”
Right now, Payne said, “We’re the only game in town as far as an out-of-region partnership.”
The InvestSWVA team is also set to work in collaboration with the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council, GO Virginia, the University of Virginia’s College of Wise, the Virginia Community College System and the region’s private higher education institutions to ensure a coordinated workforce development strategy, Payne said.
“It’s about awareness,” Payne said. “It’s all about keeping the jobs in the state.”