DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA BEACH DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, VIRGINIA BEACH
Adams’ ability to sell Virginia Beach to both outside and current businesses is evident in the number of expansion announcements he has overseen in the past year.
Those announcements include a $15.8 million investment from Acoustical Sheetmetal Co. to expand its Virginia Beach complex and create 200 jobs; Premium-PPE’s investment of $5.3 million to expand its operations and create 180 jobs; and a $4 million investment from industrial contractor SJS Executives to expand and add a fourth location, which will create 49 jobs.
Adams joined the city in 2015 as a purchasing agent and was promoted to finance operations administrator before stepping into his current role in 2018 after his predecessor, Warren Harris, resigned and later pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement charges.
Prior to coming to Virginia Beach, the Mississippi native held positions in both the private and public sectors in his home state. He earned an MBA from Hult International Business School and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Mississippi State University.
R. BRIAN BALL
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE AND TRADE, COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, RICHMOND
A University of Virginia “double ’Hoo” with degrees in economics and law, Ball has been championing the robust growth of Virginia’s economy since his appointment in 2018.
His talents are reflected in recent major economic wins during the pandemic, including Microsoft Corp.’s $64 million investment to establish a new software development and R&D regional hub in Fairfax County, creating 1,500 jobs, and manufacturer Crown Holdings Inc.’s investment of $145 million to establish a manufacturing operation in Henry County, creating 126 jobs.
Ball has also been a driving force in helping Norfolk retain the North American headquarters of CMA CGM Group, a world leader in shipping and logistics. The project is expected to keep 600 jobs in Norfolk and create 400 jobs in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.
Before joining the public sector, Ball was a corporate attorney at Williams Mullen. He currently serves as vice chair for both the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority. He also co-chairs the Governor’s Coordinating Council on Homelessness and serves on several other boards.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED: I’m more patient than I used to be, although some would disagree with that assessment.
DIRECTOR OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, DANVILLE
A Danville native and Virginia Tech alum, Bobe has been involved in economic development in the city since 2009 and last year became Danville’s economic development director.
With the Caesars Virginia casino on Danville’s horizon, Bobe is overseeing a period of change and development in her hometown. She has championed the marketing of industrial park property, such as the Southern Virginia Megasite, as well as the redevelopment of River District properties.
In May, after years of waiting, city officials announced a $62.5 million mixed-use renovation of the White Mill, the symbol of Danville’s history as a textile hub — as well as its collapse in the 1990s.
During Bobe’s tenure, the city has also seen interest grow in Danville due to an extensive workforce training program launched in cooperation with the state’s community college system and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Bobe is part of a regional cooperative effort in which the city partners with Pittsylvania County in drawing developers to co-owned industrial parks, and she also collaborates with the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.
WHAT MAKES ME PASSIONATE ABOUT MY WORK: Working in economic development has provided me with a unique opportunity to play an active role in reshaping the future of this region.
HEAD OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, AMAZON IN THE COMMUNITY, AMAZON.COM INC., WASHINGTON, D.C.
A driven and experienced community development executive, Buell joined Amazon last year after working for the Greater Washington Partnership as its vice president for policy and programs.
She is leading the launch of Amazon’s new Housing Equity Fund, a more than $2 billion commitment to preserve existing housing and create inclusive, affordable workforce housing developments through below-market loans and grants to housing partners, public agencies and minority-led organizations. The fund benefits moderate- to low-income families and individuals in Arlington and two other communities: Washington state’s Puget Sound region and Nashville, Tennessee. Amazon already has deployed $382 million to the Washington Housing Conservancy to convert the Crystal House apartment complex near Amazon’s HQ2 headquarters in Arlington into a development of more than 500 affordable homes.
Prior to Amazon, Buell served as president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Spelman College and a law degree from Georgetown Law School. She serves on the boards of Venture Philanthropy Partners and Community of Hope.
DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORFOLK ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, NORFOLK
Since joining the city of Norfolk in 2005, Chalk has worn many hats: interim director of economic development, special assistant to the city manager, and secretary-treasurer of the Norfolk Economic Development Authority among them.
Today, as the leader of Norfolk’s economic development efforts, Chalk has focused attention on retaining and bringing in jobs that benefit community stakeholders, including minority-owned small businesses. He also is overseeing the redevelopment of Military Circle Mall, which could include an arena, and has three developer groups (including one partnering with Pharrell Williams) vying for the project.
Chalk also was pivotal in bringing the country’s eighth-largest fiber internet company, MetroNet, to Norfolk, setting up competition for Cox Communications and making Norfolk a “gigabit city” in the process. A Bridgewater College graduate, Chalk also has a certificate in real estate finance and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
WHAT A COMPETITOR WOULD SAY ABOUT ME: I don’t like to lose at anything and will turn anything into a competition.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, VIRGINIA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, RICHMOND
As the state’s secretary of commerce and trade from 1998 to 2002, DuVal has been pivotal in Virginia’s business community. During his tenure in Gov. Jim Gilmore’s administration, the state attracted a record-setting 1,500 economic development projects that resulted in 156,850 new jobs and $13.7 billion in private investment.
Since 2010, DuVal has led the state’s largest business advocacy group, which he has grown from fewer than 1,000 members to more than 26,000 members today. Last year, he and the chamber released a special report focusing on returning to business post-pandemic, “Blueprint for Getting Virginians Back to Work.”
This year, the Virginia Chamber’s main job is developing the next statewide strategic plan, known as Blueprint Virginia 2030, focusing on workforce development, education, infrastructure, energy, health care and other areas. DuVal will present the plan to the governor-elect at the organization’s December economic summit.
In addition to his work in the public sector (including as mayor of Newport News), DuVal served as president and CEO of DuVal Associates Inc., a diversified real estate firm, and later as president and CEO of Kaufman & Canoles Consulting LLC.
H. GARRETT HART III
DIRECTOR, CHESTERFIELD COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, CHESTERFIELD
Under Hart’s leadership, Chesterfield County has become a leader in job growth in the Richmond region. Hart, who assumed his position in 2015, has 40 years of experience in local government and economic development.
He started his career as Louisa’s first town manager; moved to New Kent County, where he served as county administrator; and then was marketing manager for the Virginia Peninsula Economic Development Council. Prior to coming to Chesterfield, Hart served as corporate vice president of McKinney and Co. He serves on the Chesterfield Chamber board and the ChamberRVA Port Committee.
Hart is proud of the innovative assistance program the economic development team created and deployed to assist businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. The county was able to aid 439 businesses, providing $5.2 million in grants for business and child care expenses. Restaurants also benefited from “Chesterfield Eats to Go,” an interactive online map that targeted restaurants open for takeout or delivery, and “Take It Outside,” an initiative to allow restaurants to serve outdoors amid the pandemic.
TODD P. HAYMORE
MANAGING DIRECTOR, GLOBAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, COMMERCE & GOVERNMENT RELATIONS GROUP, HUNTON ANDREWS KURTH LLP, RICHMOND
As a former Cabinet secretary and agency head under three governors of both political parties, Haymore spent almost 12 years helping create economic opportunities for Virginia. He continues working with businesses in his current position, guiding them through challenges relating to business expansion or relocation.
Haymore serves as vice chair of state economic development initiative GO Virginia’s Region 4 Council, which covers the Richmond and Petersburg regions, as well as localities to the south and east. Part of his focus is on developing Petersburg’s advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster, advising several companies involved in that burgeoning sector.
The Danville native’s reach extends to economic development projects around the state, including advanced manufacturing opportunities in Southwest and Southern Virginia, as well as Hampton Roads’ development as an offshore wind hub, building upon Dominion Energy Inc.’s project off the shore of Virginia Beach.
A close confidant of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, he’s also heavily involved in McAuliffe’s second bid for governor in November. Haymore serves on several boards, including Virginia Commonwealth University’s board of visitors.
Haymore has been recognized for his economic development and trade efforts by various associations, including the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia International Business Council.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, FAIRFAX COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, FAIRFAX
Under Hoskins’ leadership, Fairfax County is making progress in becoming a technology giant, with Macedon Technologies, Microsoft and Peraton Inc. all expanding in the county over the past year. In 2021, the county had a total of 11 Fortune 500 companies headquartered there, the most of any locality in the state.
A longtime Northern Virginia mover and shaker, Hoskins came to Fairfax in 2019 with an enviable resume, after serving as director of Arlington Economic Development, where he led the team that attracted Amazon.com Inc.’s multibillion-dollar HQ2 East Coast headquarters to Arlington.
Since Hoskins’ arrival, Fairfax has retained Volkswagen Group of America Inc.’s North American headquarters under a 20-year lease, and Macedon announced it is expanding its corporate headquarters in Reston. Hoskins also had a hand in Microsoft’s announcement of its 400,000-square-foot software R&D center, which will have 1,500 employees, earning recognition as 2020’s largest transaction in Northern Virginia. Next up, StarKist Co. is relocating its headquarters from Pittsburgh to Reston in 2022.
A major proponent of regional cooperation and co-founder of the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance, Hoskins received Leadership Fairfax Inc.’s regional leadership award in 2020.
CEO, ONETEN, NORFOLK
In March, Jones stepped down from his position as president and CEO of national nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corp. to head OneTen, a coalition of Fortune 500 corporations and CEOs that is focused on training, hiring and promoting 1 million Black Americans without four-year college degrees into family-sustaining jobs and careers over the next 10 years.
Co-founded by former CEOs of American Express and Merck & Co. Inc., the coalition is working with companies across the country to influence changes in corporate hiring and advancement practices. It also connects employers with talent partners and nonprofits supporting diverse workforce development initiatives.
During Jones’ tenure at LISC, he oversaw a period of growth and expansion, including more than $2 billion in community investments in 2020. He also led LISC’s COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts in 2020 and deepened the organization’s commitment to racial equity with the start of Project 10X, a $1 billion initiative to bridge racial gaps in health, wealth and opportunity.
A native of Mecklenburg County, Jones previously served as the deputy secretary of housing and urban development for the Obama administration and as Virginia secretary of commerce under Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Jones also is a former publisher of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, ALEXANDRIA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP, ALEXANDRIA
Despite the many challenges brought by the pandemic, Landrum is proud of how Alexandria continued making major economic development deals over the past year.
In November 2020, Hilco Redevelopment Partners purchased a shuttered, 20-acre power plant site on the Potomac River, with plans for a mixed-use development. And a month later, Inova Health System announced plans for a $1 billion Alexandria Hospital campus to be built on the site of the former Landmark Mall. Alexandria also has seen an acceleration of development around Potomac Yard, including the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.
Amid the pandemic, Landrum spearheaded efforts to support the city’s local business community through the Alexandria Back to Business grant program, which provided nearly $6 million in federal and local funding to more than 600 small businesses.
Landrum was promoted to president and CEO of AEDP after holding various leadership roles in the organization since 2005. In 2019, she was named the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leader of the Year. A University of Virginia graduate, she also holds an MBA from U.Va.’s Darden School of Business and serves on boards including the Virginia Economic Developers Association and The Art League.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, VIRGINIA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP, RICHMOND
In 2018, Moret played a key role in landing Amazon.com Inc.’s $2.5 billion HQ2 East Coast headquarters, described as the largest single economic development deal in U.S. history. Named by Virginia Business magazine as its 2019 Virginia Business Person of the Year, Moret is a tireless promoter of Virginia as a great location for business, and is one of the key players in Virginia’s ranking as CNBC’s Top State for Business since 2019.
Moret and his VEDP staff have been working with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce to update Blueprint Virginia 2030, a comprehensive long-range plan for Virginia businesses that’s expected to be presented in 2022. And Business Facilities ranked Virginia No. 3 in the nation for workforce development last year, praising VEDP’s workforce training programs.
One of Moret’s key initiatives is the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a cooperative initiative with Virginia’s community colleges to provide free, fast workforce training and recruiting services for companies locating or expanding in Virginia. The Louisiana native started a similar program, FastStart, with great success when he was that state’s secretary of economic development.
A Louisiana State University alum, Moret holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.
CHAIRMAN, VIRGINIA TOBACCO REGION REVITALIZATION COMMISSION, SOUTH BOSTON
South Boston’s mayor, Owens was elected chairman of the powerful Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission in January.
He has served on the commission for the past 16 years and is its second longest-serving member after state Del. Terry Kilgore, whom Owens succeeded as chairman.
The commission, which provides funding for economic development and workforce education initiatives in formerly tobacco-dependent communities, covers an area including 40 localities in Southern and Southwest Virginia. Owens seeks to make a big impact on the economically challenged regions and has described broadband expansion and scholarships for workforce development as the commission’s most crucial investments.
A college basketball star, the 6-foot-6 Owens was inducted in 1992 into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Hampden-Sydney College, from which he graduated in 1980 with a psychology degree. He has served on the South Boston Town Council since 1998 and was appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam in June 2021 to serve on Virginia State University’s board of visitors. The owner of Edward Owens Insurance Agency, he was named the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Business Person of the Year, and he also has served on the Halifax Educational Foundation.
WILLIAM H. ‘WILL’ PAYNE II
DIRECTOR, INVESTSWVA, BRISTOL
Payne has been pivotal in attracting business prospects to Southwest Virginia. In the last year, his public-private regional economic development marketing group, InvestSWVA, helped land a 160-job expansion in Scott County for New York-based eHealth Technologies and a 113-job, $7.9 million expansion in Washington County for SPIG Industry.
InvestSWVA also announced a partnership with Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy to advance manufacturing and development opportunities for energy storage technology in Southwest Virginia. And Payne’s group spearheaded Project Oasis, an initiative to promote data center development in the region.
A Richmond native and ’80s music fan, Payne keeps an Excel spreadsheet logging the more than 160 concerts he’s attended over the past 20 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from William & Mary and is working toward an executive MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. He is vice rector of William & Mary’s board of visitors and chairs its administration, buildings and grounds committee. He also is a graduate of U.Va.’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.
NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE: Leading an effort to grow Southwest Virginia’s first malting-quality barley crop used in beer production, and expanding specialty grain market opportunities.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, LOUDOUN COUNTY
Loudoun’s economic development leader is also the self-styled “Godfather of Data Center Alley,” reflecting the fact that the county has the world’s largest concentration of data centers. More than 70% of all internet traffic passes through the county’s Ashburn area, and Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft are continually building more there.
The increased demand for cloud services and streaming video from remote workers during the pandemic caused some data center development projects to get fast-tracked in 2020. The pandemic also had Rizer focused on aiding the county’s small businesses. Loudoun doled out millions in relief funds via its COVID-19 Business Interruption Fund and allocated $250,000 in federal CARES Act money to help local restaurants offset costs for switching to outdoor dining service.
Rizer, a former disc jockey and radio station owner, holds a bachelor’s degree from Towson University. He sits on the boards of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Northern Virginia Community College Foundation.
ONE THING I WOULD CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA: Virginia is its best when we act as one. While my job is to promote Loudoun, I recognize we all have a vested interest in Virginia’s economic development success.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HENRICO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, HENRICO COUNTY
In April, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Amazon.com Inc. would be bringing a new, 2.6 million-square-foot robotics fulfillment center to Henrico, adding more than 1,000 jobs to Amazon’s existing workforce of more than 27,000 employees in Virginia. The facility is anticipated to launch in 2022.
It’s one of several economic development wins secured under the leadership of Romanello, a former Henrico County deputy manager who was appointed head of the Henrico Economic Development Authority in March 2019. Before coming to Henrico in 2016, he was county administrator for Stafford County and had served as West Point’s town manager.
Ranking second in the state as the locality with the most jobs, Henrico has seen major investments announced in recent years, including the $2.3 billion arena-anchored GreenCity development planned for the former Best Products headquarters site.
A Henrico native, Romanello holds a bachelor’s degree in history and American government from the University of Virginia and a Master of Public Administration degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. He serves on the board of Needle’s Eye Ministries.
ONE THING I WOULD CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA: Get rid of humidity.
FAVORITE VACATION: Anywhere my family is, and sand is not.
DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, RICHMOND
Sledge was instrumental in helping Richmond bring in more than $409 million in new capital investment, adding more than 1,000 new jobs this past fiscal year.
He participated in the city’s selection process to bring Urban One Inc.’s proposed $562.5 million ONE Casino + Resort before voters in a November referendum. If approved, the project, which would be the only Black-owned casino in the nation, could generate more than 1,300 jobs and $170 million in new tax revenue over its first five years.
Prior to joining Richmond city government, Sledge served as executive director of the Henry County, Georgia, Development Authority and was director of economic development for the city of Hampton. He also has led William & Mary’s Office of Economic Development.
Named one of North America’s top 50 economic developers for 2019 by management consulting firm Consultant Connect, Sledge holds undergraduate degrees from Morehouse College and Georgia Tech and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. He is an avid fan of football and Marvel movies who also enjoys fishing in his spare time.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, HAMPTON ROADS ALLIANCE, NORFOLK
Collaboration is paying off for the Hampton Roads area, and Doug Smith is leading the way as head of the Hampton Roads Alliance, an organization that represents 11 municipalities and more than 70 private sector investors. It was the first regional group to present an integrated, prioritized list of infrastructure needs that it would like to have funded through legislation pending in the U.S. Congress. The organization also has pushed for offshore wind development, among other initiatives.
Smith has headed the Alliance since September 2019, bringing with him a wealth of experience in city management and economic development. A native of Portsmouth, he served as city manager in Norfolk and deputy city manager in Virginia Beach and Portsmouth, where he also was chief plans and policy officer and economic development director. A former member of the Portsmouth City Council, he served in the private sector as CEO of Kaufman & Canoles Consulting, where he worked with national and local developers, municipalities, higher education institutions and corporations.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, CONNECTED DMV, ARLINGTON COUNTY
Formerly Accenture’s location managing director for the metro D.C. area, Solomon grew the multinational consulting company’s Washington office from 2,300 employees to more than 6,300 during his 30-year tenure.
Connected DMV’s many partners are looking for similar big accomplishments from Solomon, who, with his wife, Gina, made the initial donation in 2019 to launch the public-private nonprofit regional economic development organization promoting collaboration between the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia — the DMV.
In June, the group released its 69-page Regional Economic Development Strategy blueprint, calling for regional branding and marketing efforts for the greater D.C. region. Additionally, the document called for better job and educational opportunities for lower-income people and more focus on attracting emerging sectors, including quantum computing and hydrogen fuel.
During the pandemic, Connected DMV also convened a who’s who of 51 state and local government and business leaders to form its COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force, which has been focused on regional approaches to economic recovery.
Solomon has served on the boards of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Wolf Trap Foundation. He holds a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Baylor University.
JAMES ‘JIM’ SPORE
PRESIDENT AND CEO, REINVENT HAMPTON ROADS, NORFOLK
During Spore’s 24 years as city manager of Virginia Beach, the city won a variety of accolades, including Best Place to Live in America and one of the top five Best Managed Cities in the Nation.
In 2015, Spore retired from his position as the leader for the city of nearly 500,000 residents, with four military installations and millions of annual beach tourists, but he didn’t take any downtime. He immediately took over as leader of Reinvent Hampton Roads, a nonprofit community group that assists with regional job creation and functions as GO Virginia Region 5’s support arm.
A graduate of the University of Illinois with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in urban planning, Spore also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado. He has served as a member of the Hampton Roads Transit Long-Range Planning Advisory Committee and the state Department of Rail and Public Transit’s Transit Capital Projects Revenue Advisory Board.
Prior to his Virginia Beach tenure, Spore was city manager for Garland, Texas, and Burnsville, Minnesota, and he served as director of community development for Lakewood, Colorado, and Elgin, Illinois.
BRYAN K. STEPHENS
PRESIDENT AND CEO, HAMPTON ROADS CHAMBER, NORFOLK
Stephens joined the Hampton Roads Chamber as its leader in 2013 after a 28-year career in the U.S. Army, from which he retired as a colonel, and also heading a Texas-based equipment manufacturer, Kalmar.
A graduate of West Virginia University, Golden Gate University and the U.S. Army War College, Stephens serves on several boards, including the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, the United Way of South Hampton Roads and GO Virginia Region 5. His chamber also achieved five-star accreditation in 2016 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, placing it in the top 1% of chambers across the country.
With casinos coming to Norfolk and Portsmouth, Stephens has encouraged the cities to provide transportation between the resorts, which will be less than 10 miles apart. “It’s definitely going to change the complexion of our region and draw a lot of people into Hampton Roads who would not normally have come,” he told Virginia Business earlier this year.
BEVERAGE OF CHOICE: Dry martini
FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM: Dallas Cowboys
FAVORITE SONG: “My Way,” by Frank Sinatra
WHAT I’VE LEARNED: Significance in life comes from service.
DIRECTOR, ARLINGTON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, ARLINGTON COUNTY
Tucker’s interest in economic development started when the Lynchburg native was working as a middle school teacher and was hired as a summer camp counselor by the city’s economic development department to teach kids about entrepreneurship.
He went on to become economic development director for Danville, where he was a key player in attracting commercial van manufacturer Morgan Olson to bring more than 700 jobs to backfill an Ikea factory that was about to lay off its 300 workers.
On the heels of that deal, Tucker was hired by Arlington County, landing one of Virginia’s most prestigious and high-profile economic development jobs just as Amazon.com Inc. is revving
up its multibillion-dollar HQ2 headquarters in Arlington.
So far, Tucker has overseen deals including Microsoft’s relocation of its U.S. regulated industries team, including Microsoft Federal, to Rosslyn.
Prior to his time in Danville, Tucker was assistant director of economic development for James City County. A James Madison alum, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and business administration in international business.
He’s also an accomplished concert pianist who once performed at the Kennedy Center for President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, GREATER RICHMOND PARTNERSHIP, RICHMOND
Wakefield’s accomplishments during the past six months include coming up with a new strategic framework for the Greater Richmond Partnership, doubling the size of its board and creating new committees to engage investors.
Wakefield, who joined the partnership in 2017 as its senior vice president of marketing, ascended to the leadership of the public-private regional economic development organization in late 2020, following the unexpected early departure of her predecessor, Lara Fritts.
Prior to the partnership, Wakefield served for 11 years as vice president of marketing and communications for the Orlando Economic Development Commission (now the Orlando Economic Partnership) in Florida, where she launched an international branding campaign for the region, increasing leads by 50% and broadening awareness of Orlando as a business location among C-suite executives.
Wakefield, who was named one of the top 50 economic developers in the country by Consultant Connect in 2020, serves as chair of the nonprofit International Economic Development Council’s marketing committee. She also serves on the Management Roundtable and the Richmond Federal Reserve Industry Roundtable.
She holds a master’s degree in communications from the University of Central Florida and a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising from the University of West Florida.