BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 10, 2011 – Because of its track record in activities that help create jobs, the Office of Economic Development at Virginia Tech has been chosen to receive $500,000 in federal money over five years to further its regional economic development efforts.
The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration chose fewer than two dozen universities to receive competitive University Center grants.
“The U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center Program brings the considerable resources of universities to play to help advance bottom-up plans to drive innovation, support stronger economic growth, and create high-skill, high-wage jobs in both urban and rural areas of the nation,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez. “EDA is pleased to partner with Virginia Tech to strengthen southwestern Virginia’s innovation economy to help create new business and job opportunities.”
"We are excited that this federal award will launch an effort we're calling the Virginia Rural Competitiveness Project," said John Provo, director of the Office of Economic Development. "This will involve strategies to stimulate private-sector job creation and capital investment that, by our projections, could lead to creation or retention of hundreds of jobs in our region."
As a designated University Center, Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development will focus on helping companies pursue research commercialization as well as communities seeking to better train their workforces. Virginia Tech will also conduct preliminary feasibility studies and strategic-planning workshops devoted to commercialization, entrepreneurship, and development of employable talent.
"We also hope under this grant to streamline the deployment of Virginia Tech technical experts to support entrepreneurs and other businesses," Provo said.
Current job-creation efforts of the Office of Economic Development include a project to strengthen companies in the transportation-related industry cluster in Southwest Virginia and a green-jobs training program that involves partnerships with community colleges and regional workforce-development boards.
The Virginia Rural Competitiveness Project will target the area of Virginia known as Southside, where economic distress is longstanding and the gap between the health of the region and the state as a whole is growing. Large job losses in recent years, particularly in textile manufacturing, have undercut the region’s economies.
The project involves work in support of "anchor institutions" around the region including the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville and the Center for Advanced Engineering Research in Lynchburg.
The Office of Economic Development, which is part of Outreach and International Affairs, has been a recipient of the U.S. Commerce Department’s University Center grant since the 1980s.
Other universities recognized in this year's funding cycle include Michigan State University, Purdue University, and Pennsylvania State.
Virginia Tech’s economic impact annually in Virginia is $1.6 billion. The university’s innovation, fueled by research and development, makes Virginia companies more productive and competitive in the global economy. Industry-adopted innovations, tourism generation, and job creating grant projects are examples of statewide economic impact. As a major employer, Virginia Tech and its technology transfer and licensing has led to growth and spinoffs in biomedical, clean energy, and other sectors, creating new jobs, and revenue in the state.
Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs supports the university’s engagement mission by creating community partnerships and economic development projects, offering professional development programs and technical assistance, and building collaborations to enrich discovery and learning – all with the overarching goal of improving the quality of life for people within the commonwealth and throughout the world. Outreach and International Affairs leads Virginia Tech’s presence on five continents; its regional research and development centers across the commonwealth focus on graduate education and professional development. Blacksburg-based centers are dedicated to student engagement, language, policy, and governance.
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research was created in 2002 with funds from the Virginia Tobacco Commission. Its programs include research and education in mechanical engineering, bio-inspired technology, and sustainable and renewable resources. Several Virginia Tech faculty members, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers are currently doing their work at the institute. The Institute aims to attract technology and talent to enable economic and community transformation in Southern Virginia. Its campus is located in Danville, Va.