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Appalachian Woodlands & Sportsmen’s Review Magazine Article
Rural Virginia: Innovation in our Communities
Rural regions of the Commonwealth are leading the way transforming local economies and solving some of the most difficult problems of the 21st century. Entrepreneurship, innovation and creative economies are fueling growth throughout rural Virginia. The Center for Rural Virginia (CFRV) aims to be a partner in this work. We are joining community leaders to preserve the high-quality of life of our rural communities while creating climates of economic opportunity.
The Center for Rural Virginia is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization, established by the Virginia General Assembly in 2004. The creation of the Center was a recommendation of the Rural Prosperity Commission, created by the General Assembly in 2000. The goal of the Commission was "Prosperity for all Virginians". The 18-member Commission was instructed by the General Assembly to “undertake a detailed analysis of rural Virginia economies and recommend flexible but targeted state policies which, combined with local efforts, will help foster sustainable economic growth in Virginia’s rural areas.”
The final report of the Rural Prosperity Commission was issued in December 2001 and featured specific policy recommendations, including the creation of the Center for Rural Virginia to address the obstacles and capitalize on the many opportunities of Rural Virginia. In 2004, founding board members Senator Frank Ruff of Southern Virginia and Delegate Steve Landes of the Shenandoah Valley, sponsored the enabling legislation creating the Center.
The 21-member board of the Center for Rural Virginia includes Administration officials, legislators, and industry and community representatives. The Center board works in partnership with the 19-member board of the Council for Rural Virginia, which includes representatives from federal, state and local governments as well as regional and community organizations. The Council is a State Rural Development Council (SRDC’s) associated with the National Rural Development Partnership, created out of the 2002 Farm Bill.
The Council is a member of Partners for Rural America, whose mission is to support the efforts of its member SRDC’s, which are uniquely positioned to expand economic and social opportunities for America’s rural communities and their residents, promote equal treatment of rural America by government agencies and the private sector, and provide a collective voice for rural America.
Together, the Center for Rural Virginia and the Council for Rural Virginia work with federal, state and local policymakers and regulators as well private sector stakeholders to improve economic opportunities and preserve the quality life throughout rural Virginia.
The joint mission of the Center and Council is to work with policymakers and stakeholders to create innovative solutions and expand entrepreneurial opportunities to ensure economic prosperity for all regions of the Commonwealth.
There are several fundamental needs for rural communities to establish the framework for economic prosperity. The first is leadership and community capacity. Leaders care about their community and are willing to work to make it successful. Leadership programs are important at all levels from K-12 education through adulthood.
The second priority is education and workforce development. It is vital the communities have access to a workforce pipeline that includes K-12 education, community colleges, technical and career training programs, and graduate and post graduate degrees.
The third focus area is access to quality and specialty healthcare. Companies looking to relocate and those looking to expand need to do so in an environment that has access to preventative and specialized care. This can be accomplished through innovative partnerships regionally and through telemedicine advancements.
The fourth fundamental need is a well-developed infrastructure. This includes broadband access, energy infrastructure and adequate water and sewer. All of these infrastructure needs are necessary for successful economic development.
The fifth priority is an entrepreneurial climate that encourages citizens to start small businesses and expand existing businesses by limiting the obstacles to business formation and simplifying the process.
The sixth fundamental need is a comprehensive economic development strategy. This requires planning, stakeholder and industry participation, partnerships, local and regional vision and proper execution.
While there are certainly other needs facing Rural Virginia, the Center’s six priorities are fundamental and can assist a community in their future development and economic prosperity.
Considering the importance of these fundamental needs, the Center and Council work with stakeholders and partners on these important issues. The Center and Council focus on developing and advocating for policies that level the playing field for rural Virginia and create the right climate to ensure rural Virginia is economically competitive.
Some of the Center’s current initiatives include working with an array of stakeholders to rethink opportunities for improved broadband deployment, conducting a Strategic Plans Assessment for the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, and planning for the Annual Rural Summit in the fall.
Rural Virginia has many assets. Rural communities boast a strong tourism industry. Visitors travel long distances to enjoy the outdoors, festivals and history found in rural Virginia.
Rural areas of the Commonwealth are full of beauty, skilled workforce with entrepreneurial spirit and endless opportunities for success. The Center and Council will continue to work to promote and protect one of Virginia’s most precious resources, our rural communities.
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