New leader joins economic development organization

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Print this page by Brian J. Couturier
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Jay Langston.
Photo courtesy Shenandoah Valley Partnership

The Shenandoah Valley Partnership, a regional economic development group, is welcoming a new leader.

Jay A. Langston becomes executive director of the Harrisonburg-based economic development organization in early December. He succeeds Carrie Chenery, who stepped down to start a consulting firm and spend more time with her young daughter.

Langston, formerly the managing director of business retention and expansion at the Richmond-based Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), says he’s been interested in the region since both his wife and son attended James Madison University.

“It was appealing for both personal and professional reasons,” he says.

Langston says the Shenandoah Valley has a diverse economy, including a strong manufacturing base, agribusiness, tourism, education and a major highway — Interstate 81 — that supports distribution facilities.

Langston, who received a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech and master’s and doctoral degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University, says he’s excited to return to regional economic development. 

Before joining VEDP, Langston was the executive director of Virginia’s Gateway Region, an economic development organization covering three cities and five counties in the Petersburg area.

In 2010, Langston received the Virginia Economic Developers Association’s Cardinal Award, its highest award for economic development leadership, career accomplishment and service.

He plans to recruit and retain businesses in the region by emphasizing not only its economic assets but also its livability. He notes the Shenandoah Valley has many tourist and recreational attractions and good school systems. Those assets will help attract, retain and grow businesses, he says.

Langston also believes that the region’s quality of life will help it keep younger people who otherwise might leave rural areas for other opportunities.

“How can we keep the college graduates coming out of our area? How can we keep the high school graduates coming out of our area?” he asks, rhetorically.

Langston believes the valley’s economic and lifestyle advantages will help it retain and develop businesses.

“It’s a great place with all the ingredients to be successful,” he says.

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