by Joan Tupponce
John Provo, director of the Office of Economic Development at Virginia Tech, says a recent federal grant will help advance its efforts to create jobs in Southern and Southwest Virginia.
The office began its Virginia Rural Competitiveness Project in November after it received a grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.
The grant, $500,000 in federal funds over five years, will further Tech’s regional efforts to stimulate private-sector job creation and capital investments. “It is a highly competitive grant,” says Provo. Other universities receiving the grant this year include Purdue and Pennsylvania State.
Tech’s Office of Economic Development works with companies, communities and agencies in four key areas: technology, talent, entrepreneurship and community economic development. “Much of our recent project activity has been in areas of advanced manufacturing, work-force development, and policy and planning,” Provo says. “We are also a part of Virginia Tech’s new research facility in Arlington, working on building partnerships with Northern Virginia’s technology community.”
The grant will allow Provo’s office to put its team on the ground in rural Virginia, focusing on areas in Southern and Southwest Virginia that have seen large job losses in recent years. Provo and his staff will work with organizations such as the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Prince George and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Southern Virginia.
“The types of companies where we can add value are very different in each region,” he says, adding that his office tries to get a picture of what is needed in each area. “For example, we have been working over the last year with composite materials manufacturers in southwestern Virginia on new product development and process improvements and will continue that through this grant.”
Key partners in the project will range from local government officials and economic development agencies at the state, regional and local level to faculty and administrators at Virginia Tech and other educational institutions.
Provo believes the rural project will spur additional grants. “The teams that develop through these projects often pursue other funding opportunities,” he says.
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