Triage and retention, or what ED looks like in the “post-COVID/second wave of COVID” era

It was a pleasure to moderate a really interesting Virtual Community Conversation on Economic Resilience and Responses to COVID-19 on Wednesday, June 23, 2020. Our guests included both economic development practitioners from across Virginia as well as Virginia Tech experts on various dimensions of resilience. Our panelists included:

  • Beth Doughty, Executive Director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership
  • Stephanie Landrum, CEO of Alexandria Economic Development
  • Buddy Rizer, Executive Director of the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development
  • Charlotte Baker, Assistant Professor, Population Health Science, Virginia Tech
  • Chris Zobel, Professor, Business Information Technology, Virginia Tech

VV panel

We had a lively, hour-long conversation full of local insights, emerging research ideas, and difficult questions. What emerged to me as key themes were the near-term importance of shifting the focus of economic development from expansion/growth into more of a triage and retention mode. What I also heard, which is unsurprising, is that the Washington DC metro will likely be buffered, at least a bit, from the real depths of the economic fallout because its professional services base and close relationship with the Federal government remain comparatively strong. While many of those workers have remained gainfully employed throughout quarantine, most have largely stayed home (which is a good thing!) and have not frequented Main Street businesses in the same ways they had previously. So, what continues to be a great challenge is coming up with ways to keep those Main Street businesses alive while workers continue to work from home.

By the way, a colleague found this immensely rich resource recently. It’s a one-stop shop for all things ED and COVID. There are some great overviews of Federal, State, and local policies, as well as some creative ideas about how localities are responding to these challenging times.

This panel was part of the Vibrant Virginia initiative here at Virginia Tech. For more on Vibrant Virginia and upcoming projects, please visit us here.

As my colleague, John Provo, says, “Yes, Virginia, there is an urban and a rural! “

I hope you will consider submitting a proposal to my upcoming edited book  (with Dr. Sarah Lyon-Hill) on the urban-rural continuum in Virginia. Practitioners and academics are asked to consider this call for chapters: “Vibrant Virginia: Engaging the Commonwealth to Expand Economic Vitality” Proposal deadline 2-15.

Why I love the +Policy Fellowship

I was recently awarded  funding to support my work with the amazing folks at Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development in our collective efforts on Vibrant Virginia, which engages and supports university faculty in exploring community and economic development in urban and rural Virginia. Vibrant Virginia examines the nexus within and among the regions of the Commonwealth with an eye towards highlighting opportunities for community stakeholders from all sectors (government, education, industry, and non-profit) to address the challenges that they face.

The +Policy Fellowship is an awesome opportunity to leverage the Vibrant Virginia work by helping us to place policy considerations front and center in our interdisciplinary project. I am thankful to be one of three people who were awarded funding for the +Policy Fellowship to embed me in the Vibrant Virginia project and use my policy expertise to increase the visibility and importance of this type of policy research at the university. More here.


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How and why SMMs tend not to utilize the workforce development and technical assistance resources available to them

In a new article with colleagues from Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development, we explore why many Small and Medium Manufacturers  in one rural region of Virginia are not taking advantage of the many workforce development and technical assistance resources available to them. Using a survey and interviews, we find that constant and consistent outreach to SMMs, regular engagement in social and economic networks, and a diverse array of services tailored to rural SMMs’ needs will play key roles in developing productive partnerships between SMMs and resource providers. More here.

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A highlight of one’s profession

Hamre graduation_2018

I’d always thought that the hooding ceremony for a PhD advisee would be a professional highlight and on Sunday, May 13, 2018 I found that to be 100% true. I was honored to hood my first student, Dr. Andrea Hamre. Though I was not technically Dr. Hamre’s chair — I was merely a stand-in for her actual chair, Dr. Kris Wernstedt, who is presently in Tanzania on a Fulbright — the feeling was still enormously rewarding. What a fun way to metaphorically pass the torch on to the next wave of scholars! A heartfelt congratulations to my own advisee, Dr. Caitlin Walter, who also graduated (though she did not walk, and hence no picture) on Sunday.

Tis’ the season for capstone defenses

I’ve been witness to two successful capstone defenses here in Alexandria this past week. The first, by James Garman (not pictured, sorry!), explored cost externalities associated with pervious pavement.  The second, by Bryan Steckler (picture below), examined the West Philadelphia Scattered Site Model, which has been used to redevelop vacant properties in residential neighborhoods. Congratulations to both James and Bryan!