Alliance hopes teamwork will add up to more jobs for Southside

Other areas in the state have similar workforce and incentives. What it will come down to is "product" like available industrial parks, shell buildings and graded shovel-ready sites.

One hurdle will be changing the mindset about rural areas because in actuality, the region isn't outdated but progressive, she said. It has major airports within 50 miles, four four-lane divided highways and broadband capabilities.

One challenge with marketing the 3,500-acre megapark is that prospective companies cannot yet see its vision, Cockram said. The master plan currently under work will achieve that.

Additionally, becoming a "certified mega site" by McCallum Sweeney will be a huge help, she added.

Danville City Manager Joe King said getting the park ready is complicated, but the megapark won't be for those companies that could move into the other industrial sites in the area.

"We're looking for that big game-changer industry," King said.

Cockram is concentrating her efforts on attracting advanced manufacturing companies or data center types — those that would fit the entire region. Individual cities will continue to market for their own niches, like small high-tech companies for downtown Danville.

King admitted he had been skeptical of how well the alliance could work, as it had been tried in the past and failed. Yet, this time, all of the region's economic development directors are on board and the effort garnered funding.

He added everyone will need to continue working in an "integrated way" to ensure the success of the alliance.

Max Glass, development council board member and a former vice president of workforce services for Danville Community College, said that the region's localities need to join together to have the strength needed to compete in today's economic climate.

"Being new to this, I think it's a tremendous idea," Glass said. " ... We've got to do this. We don't have a choice."

By the numbers

What's available in the region:

  • 27 industrial parks with 18 shovel-ready sites ranging from eight graded acres to 100 acres
  • 12 shell buildings with the largest more than 100,000 square feet
  • 3,500-acre mega site in development
  • Extended labor market within 25 miles of region: 1.1 million people
  • 10,926 people are unemployed
  • 19 percent of labor market is in manufacturing, compare to 9.6 percent in the U.S

(Source: Leigh Cockram presentation, info updated last in mid-July)

Who is the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance?

  • Danville and Martinsville and Pittsylvania, Patrick, Henry and Halifax counties

The funding for the alliance

  • $600,000 in funding:
  • $200,000 from the state
  • $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission
  • $200,000 from the cities and counties
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ICF announces 539 new jobs for Henry County

Governor Bob McDonnell appears at ICF InternationalICF International, a global professional services firm, will establish its first operations center for Business Process Management (BPM) in Henry County. The $15 million center will create 539 new jobs.

Governor McDonnell said, "This project is truly transformational for Henry County. ICF International is a Virginia-headquartered company that was seeking a location for its first operations center for BPM. An investment of this caliber, as well as more than 500 new jobs, is tremendous news for Southern Virginia."

ICF International partners with government and commercial clients to deliver professional services and technology solutions in the energy, environment, and transportation; health, education, and social programs; and homeland security and defense markets. Since 1969, ICF has been serving government at all levels, major corporations and multilateral institutions. More than 3,700 employees serve these clients worldwide.

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Regional economic alliance has big hopes for Southern Virginia

How to get jobs in Southern Virginia is a question county and city leaders have struggled with for years.

They hope part of the solution will come with help from a new economic development alliance.

The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance covers four counties and two cities and will look at how to market big businesses in the region.

Those factories will move into industrial parks like Cane Creek Park in Danville.

But this is just one of 27 sites the regional alliance looks to bring business.

"What we would really like to accomplish is to give an awareness of the Southern Virginia region to both national and international companies as a viable place to come and do business and we would like to increase the number of leads that come through the area," said alliance Executive Director Leigh Cockram.

The alliances plan on traveling to companies and using their website to usher business to the region.


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Bill Bolling kicks off regional alliance with cooperation theme

Approximately 50 government and economic development leaders from the partnering localities attended the kick-off event for the alliance whose purpose is to target concentrated job creation.

Bolling has been instrumental in the creation of the alliance from suggesting the regions form a partnership to "dangling a couple hundred thousand dollars out there."

The alliance has received a total of $600,000 in funding from the Virginia Tobacco Commission that funds $200,000, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership that provides $200,000 and each of the six communities that are contributing a total of $200,000 over the next two years.

"The real credit for putting this organization together rests with the local governments because you all had the ability to either say yes you wanted to be a part of a regional alliance or either say no. Fortunately you all chose to say yes, so it is to your credit we are all here today," Bolling said expressing appreciation to the leaders in the six localities who have agreed to work together to attract economic development to the region as a whole.

"The fact that these six localities in this alliance have chosen to promote Southern Virginia as a region I think is really going to be the key to our success," Bolling added.

The lieutenant governor stressed the importance of all six localities working together to promote economic development and job creation.

"We all have a stake in this effort," he added.

Bolling thanked legislative partners in the General Assembly for appropriating incentive money naming Senator Ruff, Delegates Edmunds, Marshall and Merricks and others he described as "great advocates."

Next he expressed appreciation to the local governments — from economic development directors to the boards of supervisors — who were enthusiastic and provided $200,000 in matching funds.

Also Bolling thanked members of the tobacco commission who provided $200,000 in funding for the alliance, describing the tobacco commission as "a big arrow in our quiver."

Also working diligently with the alliance have been team members within the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Secretary's Office of Commerce and Trade.

"We're just getting started. Now that we've got this alliance up and running, we've got great leadership, the hard work starts now in putting together our strategic plans and marketing strategies," Bolling continued.

He said it is now time to aggressively market the six localities that make up the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.

"Southern Virginia has been through a tough time," Bolling said looking back over the past decade since the passage of NAFTA and its impact on the textile manufacturing base.

Though the region continues to experience high unemployment rates, Bolling noted that rates have fallen in the last 18 months.

"It shows that folks are working hard, and we are accomplishing things," Bolling said. "But I am as confident as I am standing here today that this region of our state is as well-positioned as any and better than most to take advantage of a future economic resurgence," he said, adding, "and that's because of the work you all have done."

He referenced Riverstone as the example for potential that exists in Southern Virginia.

"When I'm up in Northern Virginia talking to companies about Southern Virginia, I always use this facility as an example. I tell them you won't find a finer facility any place you go."

Even in the tough economy, Bolling maintained that Southern Virginia is "making progress."

The state has closed about 575 economic development deals in the last 19 months, almost 30 percent of those being in rural parts of the state, with half of those being in Southern Virginia, according to Bolling.

Although the unemployment rate still remains too high, Bolling said, folks are working hard and accomplishing things.

"I want people to feel optimistic about the future of Southern Virginia," he added. "You have laid the groundwork here and really are as well-positioned in Southern Virginia as any part of our state if we can just get this engine that is the greatest economy in the world running again at the federal level."

The lieutenant governor introduced the alliance's newly appointed Executive Director Leigh Cockram of Henry County who was named director of the alliance in June.

Cockram's responsibilities include developing marketing materials, such as brochures and print mail items; establishing the office; promoting the region through traveling, hosting consultants and other efforts; and other things geared to creating jobs.

Bolling described Cockram as "smart, articulate, and passionate about promoting Southern Virginia because this is her home."

Cockram, who joined the SVRA as executive director on June 15, praised Bolling's efforts in creating the alliance.

"We would not be here without your leadership in bringing all the parties together and facilitating this partnership," Cockram said.

Cockram said the need definitely exists for a regional alliance explaining "company executive and site selection consultants don't see county, city, town or state lines. What they see and remember are regions."

She described her job as one of "building the numbers story."

The numbers story to which Cockram referred includes the overwhelming manufacturing experience of the workforce in the region, the variety of workforce training sites, and the number of shovel-ready sites and existing buildings.

"We want to get companies to see the true value of the assets that we have here," she said.

Cockram also cited the number of international companies that currently operate within the region.

"They chose southern Virginia, and we need to start telling that story. These are not Halifax County jobs, Danville jobs or Patrick County jobs. They are southern Virginia jobs. That is the world in which we live in. We need to start celebrating southern Virginia as a region."

That's what she plans to do — compiling all of the localities' data collectively to market to national and international site selection consultants and companies in an effort to get them to see "the true value and the assets we have sitting in our backdoor."

Her main job is to get people to the region.

"It's just getting people here, and it's getting our message across to our target audience that this is a place that you can come and do business and do it well," she said.

She pointed to an existing manufacturing workforce available in the region, saying that more than 40 percent of the unemployed here have a manufacturing background.

"We have the labor force and skill set needed to attract manufacturing companies, and that's who we are going to be targeting during this initiative," she said.

"We have wonderful training facilities that sit in our backyard, and when you start pooling all of this together and compiling mass numbers ... you start building capacity. That's what we need to start selling to America and international companies," she added.

Cockram concluded her remarks urging all in attendance to promote where we live.

"At the end of September, we will start hitting the road," Cockram said. "We will meet with site selection consultants and start selling the area. It will be up to local economic developers to close the deals. We are not here to take the place of any local economic development office but to complement their work.

"Our goal is to put our citizens back to work in Southern Virginia jobs. We have to start marketing ourselves as a region telling our story because regionalism is the way. That's how we're going to start getting more exposure," she concluded.

from the Gazette-Virginian

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Alliance on a mission to bring jobs to Southside

The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance will place the region on the map for business leaders and prospective companies, leaders say.

"I think this is going to be the extra boost we need to take our economic development efforts in Southern Virginia to the next level, and I think we're going to see that pay off over the course of the months and years to come with even more positive good news and jobs announcements," said Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling during Friday's alliance kickoff at the Riverstone Centre in South Boston.

The regional alliance — representing Danville, Martinsville and Pittsylvania, Halifax, Henry and Patrick counties — will start hitting the road to tell Southside Virginia's story within the next couple of months, said Executive Director Leigh Cockram. The alliance has been compiling regional data and creating marketing materials.

The region can offer more graduates, workforce training sites, infrastructure and other resources than any one city or county alone, she said.

Once the alliance attracts potential business clients to the area, then it's up to local economic developers to seal a deal, Cockram explained.

"We all have a role to play in promoting where we live and what we're trying to accomplish for the future," she said.

from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Southern Virginia Regional Alliance Hires First Director

Danville, VA (June 2, 2011) - Virginia’s newest regional economic development organization, the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance (SVRA), has hired Leigh Cockram as the organization’s first Director. Cockram is currently the Vice President of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, and has been actively involved in the formation of the SVRA since March 2010.

SVRA is a marketing partnership between Halifax, Henry, Patrick, and Pittsylvania counties and cities of Martinsville and Danville, created to promote economic development and job creation in southern Virginia. It will be funded over two years with $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, $200,000 from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and $200,000 combined from the six communities of the alliance for a total of $600,000.

“Leigh’s knowledge of our region and this initiative made her a great candidate for the Director position,” said Mike Sexton, Executive Director for the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority. “Each of our community’s economic development offices looks forward to working with her on promoting the SVRA.”

“I was delighted to hear that the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance had hired one of their own to head up economic development efforts in Southern Virginia,” said Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling. “Leigh Cockram has done a great job in Martinsville and Henry County, and she now has an opportunity to make a positive impact for the entire region. Leigh knows the region well, she understands the importance of regional cooperation in achieving economic development goals, and she has great relationships with public and private sector partners. I know Leigh will do a great job, and I look forward to working with her to advance our efforts to support economic growth and job creation throughout Southern Virginia.”

“I am honored to have the opportunity to continue working with the SVRA team to market our region as the ideal place for businesses to locate,” said Cockram. “Southern Virginia has a wealth of opportunities for companies looking to grow, from great industrial parks to first class training facilities. I am confident that marketing our assets collectively will have a much bigger impact to site selection consultants and company executives who are searching for new places to do business.”

Tobacco Commissioner and Delegate Don Merricks said, "Regionalism is a must as we market Southern Virginia to prospective business and industry clients. I am pleased that we will have a Southern Virginia native heading up this initiative. Leigh has the experience and communication skills to market our area the most effective way possible. I look forward to working with her as we move forward."

“The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) is proud to be a partner in this collective marketing initiative for Southern Virginia,” said Jeff Anderson, VEDP President and CEO. “We anticipate great results, and the SVRA has already been recognized by Southern Business & Development Magazine as one of theTen Notable Collective Economic Development Efforts in the South. We are excited about the opportunity and look forward to working with Leigh Cockram to market the region.”Cockram, a 2002 graduate from the University of Virginia and native of Henry County, will begin her duties with the SVRA on June 15th.


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Checkered Flag Goes Down on Successful Weekend

Pictured from Left to Right (front row) Liz Povar, business development director VEDP; Lt Governor Bill Bolling; (second row) Ken Bowmen, Pittsylvania County; Mark Heath Martinsville/Henry County; Tom Rose, Patrick County and Mike Sexton, Halifax County.The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, with the support of Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) got their first regional marketing effort started at Martinsville Speedway. SVRA is a partnership championed by the Lt. Governor that includes Halifax, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania counties as well as the cities of Martinsville and Danville.

The effort included 10 invited site selection companies as well as companies that are looking to expand or relocate operations and showcased the southern region of Virginia over the weekend of October 22 through the 25. It also included a presentation on the region's workforce, regional assets such as industrial parks and shell buildings, education and quality of life.

“An effort like this is a massive undertaking and was hugely successful thanks to the involvement of  Lt. Governor Bolling and VEDP. I can’t say enough about how well the regional partners worked together to bring this first event together. I think all of Southern Virginia can be very proud of what was accomplished in the region over the weekend,” said Mike Sexton, Industrial Development Authority of Halifax County Executive Director.

Economic Development directors from throughout the region showed their support of NASCAR driver Jeff Burton, a regional native from South Boston, and presented Lt Governor Bolling with a jacket as a thank you for his support of the region.

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