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Community and Regional Economic Development Programming


Moderator:  Conaway B. Haskins III, Executive Director,

Virginia Community Economic Network


Conaway B. Haskins III is the inaugural Executive Director of the Virginia Community Economic Network, a consortium of public & private sector organizations working to advance and support small business and entrepreneurship-based approaches to community & economic development. Before coming to VCEN, Conaway worked in a variety of positions in the governmental and nonprofit sectors, including serving as Executive Director for Government & External Affairs and Virginia State University in Petersburg, VA, as Project Director for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions at the Council on Foundations in Arlington, VA, as State Director for US Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, as Senior Program Officer at the Cameron Foundation in Petersburg, VA, and as a Research Associate at the Aspen Institute in in Washington, DC.

Conaway currently serves on the board of directors of both Communities in Schools of Virginia and the Virginia Public Access Project, on the Advisory Boards of the Minority Political Leadership Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Honors College at George Mason University, and he is a member of the Programming Committee of the Richmond Folk Festival. From 2011-2012, he served as one of the Virginia Volunteer Leaders for the White House Office on Public Engagement. In 2009, he was named one of 51 "People to Know" by Richmond Magazine, and in 2006, he was selected as a Robert H. Hull Leadership Fellow of the Southeastern Council of Foundations and as a Political Leadership Fellow of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. He holds a Master of Regional Planning degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors and distinction in Government & Politics from George Mason University.

Specialties: public policy, government relations, economic development, philanthropy, strategic communications, community relations, higher education.



Ken McFadyen, Regional Director of Economic Development, Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority





Ken McFadyen serves as the Regional Director of Economic Development for the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA) for Carroll County, the City of Galax and Grayson County in Southwest Virginia.   BRCEDA leads regional economic development initiatives, which have been recognized by the Appalachian Regional Commission, Council for Rural Virginia, and the Virginia Association of Counties.  Some of the initiatives include a Small Business Development Center, which has led to the funding of over 200 new small businesses that have employed approaching 1,000 employees;  the Wired Road Broadband Authority- Virginia’s first community open-access broadband network; economic revitalization projects with the Town of Fries and Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development; and, Wildwood Commerce Park, a regional commerce park located on Interstate-77, which is a Virginia Tobacco Commission Megasite.  Ken represents Grayson County on the Wired Road Broadband Authority Board of Directors and also serves on the Virginia Economic Developers Association Board of Directors.


Ken has completed the County Administration course and Basic Economic Development Course at the School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Previously, Ken has worked in county and municipal management, attaining ICMA-CM status, and also with a non-profit economic development organization that promoted a White House initiative. He is an Eagle Scout and Past President of his Rotary Club. Ken earned an undergraduate degree in history from Appalachian State University and holds master degrees in public administration and American history.  With his wife Melanie, they have two children and live in Grayson County.


Julie Markowitz, Executive Director, Staunton Downtown Development Association





I am originally from Luray, Virginia, where my family owned and operated several small businesses, including Markowitz Appliances, still located in Downtown Luray and the Holiday Motor Lodge, formerly located ½ mile from the Luray Caverns. I have a degree in Music from Bridgewater College.


I have lived in Staunton since 1993.  I came to Main Street in 2006 armed with 10 years experience in mall marketing and promotions, working for Simon Property Group in Harrisonburg at Valley Mall and at Charlottesville Fashion Square. I have been fortunate to receive the kind of corporate education that a large company brings to the table. 


Since assuming the role of Executive Director for the Staunton Downtown Development Association in 2006, I have been fortunate to implement programs such as Extended Store Hours, Street Entertainment, shop local. play local., cooperative advertising programming and the BRIGHT IDEA Innovation Grants, that connect the community and the region with Downtown Staunton, increasing traffic and sales and attracting strong business models. I have increased the impact, dialogue and connectivity of the SDDA through Downtown Round Tables, and Confessions of an Entrepreneur that utilize the City of Staunton, the Staunton community, and local and regional organizations. Our programs are designed to support not only SDDA stakeholders, but local organizations and artisans that build relationships and a local vibe.


Ken Heath, Director of Community and Economic Development, Town of Marion


Ken Heath is a native of Marion, Virginia.  He is marking his 20th year in Economic Development, having served 19 years as the Executive Director of the Marion Downtown Revitalization Association, Inc. before being named as the community's first Director of Community and Economic Development in 2013.    


When Marion was accepted into the Virginia Main Street program in 1995, nearly one in three storefronts was empty, and almost 100% of the upper story space was vacant.  Like the buildings, the infrastructure had been neglected for decades.   With the training and networking offered through the Virginia Main Street Program, Marion began working to rebuild downtown.  The organization forged strong partnerships with local government, property owners, business owners, and the community at large, and began a structured, directed effort to strengthen the existing business base, to replace worn infrastructure, and to market downtown as a destination for excitement and fun.  


In 1999, twenty new upper-story apartments were created through a public-private partnership between the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Town of Marion, and downtown property owners, bringing residents back downtown.  Over $1,350,000 was spent on the apartment rehabs, new sidewalks and new street trees.  A VDOT grant provided historic light poles, and American Electric Power provided manpower to relocate overhead utility lines to lean up the visual impact of Main Street. 


Two years ago, Heath partnered with his team to develop a comprehensive program to refill the downtown storefronts that had vacated during The Great Recession.  Vacancy rates had again soared to over 17%, and many people had Main Street on the ropes.  But not Heath.  The innovative "Pop Up Marion Small Business Bootcamp" brings the best of business plan competitions, mentorship, minimal incentive investment, and marketing to build a brand that is being used across the Commonwealth - and across the country - to recruit, retain, and empower entrepreneurs to "be the change" , fullfilling their dreams of small business ownership, and meeting community needs - all while filling vacant storefronts and building community pride!


Heath is married to the former Pamela Wellman of Glade Spring.  The couple reside in Marion.  A 1986 graduate of East Tennessee State University, Heath was elected to Marion Town Council in 2002, and currently serves on several volunteer committees in the community, including the Marion Rotary Club, the Smyth County Chapter of FOOLS International, and the Marion Volunteer Fire Department. 

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