Tech official helped state secure HQ2

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Dwight Shelton has been instrumental in Virginia Tech’s growth during
the past 40 years. Photo courtesy Virginia Tech

When he retires in November after 40 years with Virginia Tech, Dwight Shelton Jr. will leave a legacy. Among many accomplishments, he played a key role in helping the state land the biggest economic development project in U.S. history.

Virginia Tech’s vice president for finance and chief financial officer, Shelton worked with state officials on Virginia’s successful bid for Amazon’s $2.5 billion East Coast headquarters.

Based in Arlington, HQ2 is expected to generate  an economic impact of $14.2 billion and create more than 59,000 jobs throughout Virginia during the next dozen years.

“Had it not been for Dwight Shelton’s personal contributions to our HQ2 cultivation efforts, which formed the basis for the commonwealth’s $1.1 billion tech-talent pipeline initiative, I’m confident Virginia’s HQ2 bid would not have been successful,” says Stephen Moret, the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP).

After Virginia made higher education the centerpiece of Virginia’s bid for the Amazon HQ2 project, VEDP and key General Assembly money committee members sought advice and assistance from Shelton.

He worked with Moret to develop and refine enrollment and funding models for the higher-education component of Virginia’s Amazon HQ2 proposal. Shelton also worked with key legislators to explain the models and Virginia Tech’s role in their implementation.

As part of that effort, Shelton also collaborated with state officials on the launch of Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus, which is under development in Alexandria.

During his tenure at Virginia Tech Shelton has been instrumental in the university’s growth as well as the advancement of higher education across the state. When he came to Virginia Tech, the university had 20,780 students and a total budget of $151.8 million. It now has an enrollment of 34,950 and a budget of $1.5 billion.

“I’m proud of how the overall financial picture has grown,” Shelton says. “We are in our strongest financial position now to be able to take on the new initiatives we are working on such as the technology talent pipeline and our Innovation Campus in Alexandria.”

Dennis H. Treacy, the rector of the Virginia Tech board of visitors, says, “Dwight’s two greatest strengths are his integrity and his encyclopedic knowledge of university workings. He has a complete understanding of the workings of the Virginia General Assembly and is often consulted by staff and members for analyses and recommended actions.”

Shelton counts his work with the VEDP and state officials on the Amazon project as one of his two biggest accomplishments. The other is the close working relationships he forged with colleagues from other universities to develop and help gain legislative approval of the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 2005.

“The act was significant in the state because it allowed colleges and universities to tailor their business practices to fit their operating environments, resulting in millions of dollars of savings to students and clients,” Shelton says.

Shelton also led efforts to develop and implement funding plans for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, a joint venture with Carilion Clinic that now is a college of the university. 

“Over the last 15 to 20 years the university has created a number of new initiatives that required finance to work creatively to come up with strategies to make those initiatives work,” he says. 

Shelton has a “deep and genuine passion for his university and respect for the educational value created by Virginia Tech,” says Nancy Howell Agee, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic. “These serve as his ‘true north’ in his professional compass.”

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