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VEDP As Focused On Growth In Virginia’s Rural Horseshoe As Urban Crescent, CEO Tells Rural Leaders

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia can return to its former glory as one of the great growth states in the nation, Stephen Moret, Ed.D., President and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), said emphatically Wednesday, Feb. 1 during his keynote address at the annual Rural Caucus Reception and Dinner.

And every region – even the most rural ones – can be part of that growth, he said, pledging to make VEDP as focused on the growth of “Virginia’s horseshoe as the urban crescent.”

Hosted by the Virginia Rural Center and the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), the annual Rural Caucus Reception and Dinner brought together nearly 200 business and government leaders from across the state, including administration officials, General Assembly members, local elected officials and the Lieutenant Governor. It was the largest dinner to date for the caucus and included 47 county officials from 25 counties across the Commonwealth.

“We’re trying to help people back home,” said Dean Lynch, VACo Executive Director. “That’s why we’re here.”

“We’ve done well in some areas of Virginia since the recession and our unemployment rate has gone from 5.4 down to 4.1, but rural Virginia has not recovered yet,” Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said during the reception before the dinner. “All of us in Virginia need to be doing all we can to bring rural Virginia up as well.”

This General Assembly session, Lynch said, VACo was paying particularly close attention to broadband access across Virginia, economic development in rural areas, K-12 funding and hospital access.

“We’re never going to be able to recruit industry that pays high wages without the infrastructure to support it,” Lynch said.

Moret understands. He grew up in rural Mississippi and has “spent a lot of time in small towns, not in Virginia, but in places like Virginia,” he said. “I know what it’s like to work with a community that’s trying to retain its biggest economic driver employer. I’ve also had some great moments of being able to announce a big employer coming to a small town."

“I also of course know that while the big employers are critical, even a small, high quality employer in small communities in Virginia can make a big difference,” Moret added, pledging

to put just as much energy into recruiting and fostering those small employers, as well as the large ones, as he begins his work across the state.

It won’t be easy, but the economic growth can come to rural Virginia, Moret said.

“Almost half of the 130 independent counties and cities in Virginia have declined in population over the last five years,” Moret said. “Rural America is under tremendous economic headwinds. But what my belief is, as we sit here in one of the greatest places to do business in America, we could be the one place that could get it right.”

About the Virginia Rural Center: The Virginia Rural Center is a collaborative partnership of the Center for Rural Virginia and the Council for Rural Virginia. Together, these two organizations work with federal, state and local policymakers as well as business leaders to grow economic opportunities and preserve the quality of life throughout rural Virginia. To learn more visit

About the Virginia Association of Counties: The Virginia Association of Counties supports county officials and represents, promotes and protects the interests of the state’s more than 90 counties. VACo monitors state and federal legislation for changes affecting local governments, and offers assistance to county leaders regarding planning and implementing new ideas and technologies. Find out more about VACo at

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