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.
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.