Executive Director Updates

Region 8 April Update

May 10, 2024

Greetings Everyone!

We just enjoyed another successful month for Region 8 and I am happy to provide with you with updates.

Statewide GOVA updates

We are anticipating the GO Virginia State Board to meet virtually on June 4 and vote on several topics of interest. The first is regarding the future eligibility of project applications addressing the health care industry. In the past, with rare exception, GO Virginia would not consider health care related applications due to the industry not being considered a “traded” sector. However, some have made the case that the health care industry is vital to the overall promotion of economic development and with JLARC recommendation,  the State Board agreed to discuss and possibility reconsider this policy if certain guidelines and stipulations are met. The State Board will also be considering revised core grant outcomes, long-term impacts tracking, traded sector industry definitions and what constitutes as high wage job eligibility requirements. These GO Virginia policy topics also emerged after the 2023 JLARC report.

Council Meeting

We wrapped up an excellent Council meeting in April at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD). Thank you to Lisa Botkin  Heather Ream from SHD for allowing us to utilize Hangar 6 for what was certainly a memorable meeting!

At the last meeting, we said goodbye to several Council members, Jon Alger, Joanie Eiland, Connie Loughead, and Dr. John Downey. These members have been with us from the beginning and their insight, leadership and expertise will be missed.

While we are saddened to see some members go, we are excited about several new members joining the Council, including John Graves, President of Luray Caverns and Dottie Day, Vice President of Navy Federal  Credit Union. At our last Council meeting, we voted in two new members who will be succeeding Dr. Downey and Mr. Alger as the Blue Ridge Community College and James Madison University representatives respectively: Dr. Dave Urso, BRCC Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dr. Anthony Tongen, JMU Vice President of Research, Economic Development and Innovation.

New Projects

Region 8 continues to be on a roll with new, exciting and expansive projects that will lead to even more economic success for the Shenandoah Valley region.  The two projects below were presented to Council at the April meeting, and received unanimous votes to move forward to the State for approval.

Winchester Airport Advanced Air Mobility Planning Grant

At the April meeting, the Council heard from Nick Sabo, Executive Director of the Winchester Regional Airport Authority, regarding a Planning Grant application to support a project focused on advanced air mobility (AAM). AAM involves using cutting-edge technology to revolutionize aviation services, including unmanned aircraft systems and more efficient passenger and cargo aircraft. Virginia aims to lead in this field by driving innovation and developing safe, accessible, secure, and scalable technology and products. This initiative presents significant economic opportunities across various sectors, with a projected need for 17,000 new employees by 2045, as outlined in the report “Virginia’s Advanced Air Mobility Future” (2023) published by the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC). The grant request seeks to prepare a skilled workforce to support Virginia’s AAM future, leveraging the region’s strengths to ensure a prosperous future for jobseekers.

As a planning grant application, this project will hopefully be administratively approved by DHCD soon and hopefully be under contract before July 1.

Talent Pathways Initiative

In March, the Region 8 Executive Committee approved the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board (SVWDB) to act as the Coordinating Entity for the Talent Pathways Initiative and in early April, the Grant Review Committee voted to move SVWDB’s Talent Pathways project application to Council.   At the April 23 meeting, SVWDB Executive Director Sharon Johnson provided an in-depth plan for how the organization will approach this analysis and how the information gathered will serve as an enormous benefit not only to Region 8 but all interested entities throughout the Shenandoah Valley.  This project will be considered by the GO Virginia State Board at its June 4 meeting.

Finally, I was thrilled to attend the Harrisonburg Rockingham Technology Council’s awards event this week, along with several Council members, economic developers and other Region 8 stakeholders.  It was particularly special when a young man named Joseph Brown introduced himself to me.  Joseph was one of the first graduates from Blue Ridge Community College’s Cybersecurity Program – which was one of GO Virginia Region 8’s first projects.  And I was really impressed that he knew how that program was funded!  How gratifying to see success, living and breathing!

Thank you as always for your support of GO Virginia Region 8, our mission and our goals of creating a future that is robust and diverse for the Shenandoah Valley. If you need more information or have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Deborah K. Flippo

Executive Director