September 21, 2013

Danville, Va. (Saturday, September 21, 2013) – In an effort to promote the value of regionalism, the Danville River Region Collaborative (DRRC) hosted an event on Friday featuring two nationally recognized regional initiatives, Mobilize Maine and Central Virginia’s Region 2000.


Speaking at the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research to around 60 community leaders and elected officials in Southern Virginia, DRRC Project Director, Dr. Julie Brown, said, “Regionalism is about partnerships and collaborations to leverage assets. While we may be getting some things right with our Collaborative and other regional efforts, hopefully, there will be takeaways on how we can do things differently, with a common goal to cultivate long-term, sustainable partnerships.”


Representatives from Mobilize Maine and Region 2000 said their regional economic development strategies focus on “quality of place,” where their regions’ assets are used as a foundation for future growth.


Amy Landry of Mobilize Maine gave an example of what quality of place means. Most regions have a river, she said. “Why is your river special? Everyone has a river.”


According to Landry, asset-based regional economic development attempts to leverage resources that spotlight what is positive about the region and uses these resources to preserve and enhance this positive.


Echoing this view, Brian David of Region 2000, said that traditional economic development is about real estate, but it won’t differentiate a region. In his region, David said it is all about “talent, talent, talent.”


“Education attainment is what is what we have our eye own,” he said.


Brown agreed with this underlining message as DRRC’s most recent initiative, Southern Virginia’s Certified Work Ready Community, which is a framework to validate work-related skills for employers, is intended to promote the positive assets of the region’s workforce.


“While education attainment is important, the ability to quantify foundational skills, required by employers, is invaluable in today’s competitive business environment,” she said.


Mobilizing Maine and Region 2000 use their respective planning district commissions as the infrastructure to build regional collaboration to advance primarily economic and workforce development strategies.


Political subdivisions of states, planning district commissions are nationwide with 21 in Virginia. Southern Virginia is covered by two planning district commissions, the West Piedmont and Southside, which collectively represent seven counties, three towns and two cities.


Members of the commission include elected officials and appointed representatives from the participating locales.


“Mobilizing Maine has built a powerful strategy to compete in the world,” said Landry.


Mobilize Maine is part of a statewide initiative of the seven economic districts in Maine, “each of which are participating in development strategies based on their region’s indigenous assets and opportunities,” she said.


Unlike Maine, Region 2000 is regionally driven and not part of a statewide initiative, said David. Region 2000 is a network of organizations under the region’s planning district commission’s umbrella that is committed to a centralized vision within a 2,000 square miles radius of Lynchburg.


Brown said this event is the first of many planned DRRC-hosted discussions on the value of regionalism.


DRRC is a consortium of regional public and private foundations, chambers of commerce, economic developers and workforce investment boards with a common goal to cultivate longer-term, sustainable workforce partnerships in the Southern Virginia region of Danville and Martinsville and the counties of Halifax, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania.