During the formation of the GO Virginia Initiative, the original legislation directed each of the nine sub-regions to develop and implement an Economic Growth and Diversification Plan. This plan provides the strategic framework that each region uses to solicit and approve proposals for GO Virginia funded regional economic development projects.
GO Virginia Region 6 initially developed its plan in 2017, with instruction by the GO Virginia State Board to update the plan every two years, and updated the plan in 2019. This plan is the governing document for the region and all projects funded by the Region 6 Council must fall under the guidelines of the plan, primarily the six priority industry clusters.
This post is the first in a series of blogs to dive deeper into the Growth and Diversification Plan (G&D Plan), to help stakeholders and interested parties understand the G&D Plan and how it shapes regional projects.
Plan Development Process
In 2017 and 2019, a regional economic analysis was completed that analyzed regional economic trends and conditions; priority performance industry clusters; workforce gaps; sites, buildings, and prospect recommendations; and the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the region.
During the analysis, stakeholders from across the region were engaged to provide validation from the regional economic analysis findings and helped guide the overall direction of the plan. Each of the planning district commissions and economic development organizations in the region were engaged to ensure each sub-region was accurately and fairly recognized and involved in the process.
An analysis of regional economic trends showed that as a region, Region 6 is consistent with state trends, however, there are significant differences in the performance and composition of the economies of the three Planning Districts (PDCs) that comprise Region 6 – George Washington, Middle Peninsula, and Northern Neck.
Over the last five years, private sector growth was significantly different across the sub-regions—7.4 percent in Region 6 as a whole, 8.1 percent in the George Washington PDC, 5.8 percent in the Middle Peninsula PDC, and 3.6 percent in the Northern Neck PDC as compared to 7.4 percent statewide in Virginia.
Using the eight-factor Economic Performance Index, the industry base within the region was analyzed. These six priority industry clusters shed light on the primary industries across the region. The six priority industry clusters that projects presented to the Region 6 Council must fall under are:
- Aquaculture / Seafood / Commercial Fishing / Marine Industries
- Forestry / Wood Products / Paper
- Distribution / Logistics
- Information / Data Centers
- Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
Analysis of the workforce across the region showed gaps between what employers need for skills and what is being delivered from high schools, community colleges, training programs, and the University of Mary Washington. Due to the low unemployment rate and the high out-commuting population, the labor pool is small with the region.
Available sites and buildings for companies to purchase and build on or move into immediately are limited and concentrated in the Fredericksburg region. Professional, Technical and Scientific Services (priority industry cluster) businesses typically require quality office space – there is a limited selection of Class A office space available in the region and those offices are concentrated in just two of localities in the Fredericksburg area. It is a regional priority to increase the number of build-ready sites in the region to promote new companies across Region 6.
The Regional Entrepreneurial Assessment Project conducted by TEConomy in 2018 presents an analysis of the entrepreneurial ecosystem within the region and makes some recommendations for activities that support five distinct program areas; 1) develop entrepreneurial pipeline, 2) improve and expand “high-growth” startup programming, 3) improve and expand “local-growth” startup programming, 4) develop continuum of capital, and 5) focus on technology commercialization and industry engagement with regional R&D institutions. Through workgroup sessions, it was determined that entrepreneurial programs, assistance, facilities and access to capital needed to be expanded throughout the region.
Through the examination of each of these key components, desired outcomes, investment strategies, measures of success, and recommendations were developed to help guide stakeholders in development projects and the Region 6 Council in funding projects that would help grow Region 6. Next week’s post will examine stakeholder recommendations and ideas surrounding these recommendations.