University Centers collaborate with other EDA partners, such as Economic Development Districts (EDDs), by providing expertise, applied research, and technical assistance to support regional economic growth. Virginia Tech’s Center for Economic and Community Engagement (CECE) provides research and technical assistance services to both rural and urban communities across the state, focusing on technology, talent development, entrepreneurship, and community development. CECE works with three EDDs but has had a particularly active and ongoing partnership with the New River Valley Regional Commission (NRVRC). Over the years, CECE and NRVRC have collaborated on several projects together, aligning their work in community health and equitable economic development.
Prioritizing resiliency and community development is a regional focus. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) grant is one project where this was at the forefront. The project will develop a workforce training strategy for industrialized construction that aims to reduce costs, waste, and emissions while addressing housing affordability challenges. Growing Central Appalachia’s workforce will promote inclusivity and resiliency in a region that has been faced with economic challenges. By partnering with NRVRC, CECE can leverage Virginia Tech’s resources to diversify the region’s economy, fostering greater economic and community resilience.
To promote economic resilience and equitable growth, the EDD should be a part of university economic development discussions to better understand and include the local perspectives. By having effective communication, collaboration, and inclusion in application planning and development, CECE and NRVRC successfully received an EDA Tech Hubs Strategy Development Grant, the Virginia Additive Manufacturing & Applied Materials Strategy Development Consortium. This designation will assist in the resiliency of the region, with a focus on advancing a regional strategy to develop and deploy additive manufacturing system technologies for heavy industry to re-shore manufacturing and strengthen domestic supply chain resilience. CECE’s executive director John Provo states, “The shared labor of developing proposals like ARISE or Tech Hubs works out really well. We had adjacent overlapping networks and were able to deliver a big thing by working together.”
CECE and NRVRC have a strong relationship due to the recognized opportunity of what both players can offer. CECE states that realizing that there is equal benefit to the partnership and that you can accomplish more by working together is important for universities to see the benefit in the relationship. For an EDD interested in strengthening a relationship with universities, acknowledging what the university can assist with is necessary. NRVRC executive director Kevin Byrd states, “The ideal model is what we have evolved into. We lean on them for special things and acknowledge they are involved, while we run the meetings. It helps build capacity and confidence that our community has with the EDD and the university.” Especially in regions that may be disadvantaged or facing challenges related to resiliency and equity, having a trusted entity focused on the community, like NRVRC, that receives expertise from a university can create an effective model for resource delivery.
Links below for more information:
CECE website: https://cece.vt.edu/
NRVRC website: https://nrvrc.org/