Hope F. Cupit, CPA
President and CEO, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project Inc., Roanoke
How is the economy faring in your part of the state?
In Southwest Virginia, we have many challenges. We have the weakest economic growth of all the regions in the state. We have declining populations … not to mention [that we] have lost jobs in certain industries, e.g., coal. … We are [also] losing jobs in the water and wastewater sector as well. This makes it hard for us to find qualified workers.
What local industry/sector do you think has potential for growth?
Strong private-sector growth is needed, and several industries come to mind. We can’t put our eggs in one basket because having a diverse economy is essential for Southwest Virginia. Industries with growth potential are information technologies, energy, minerals, manufacturing, agriculture, and food and beverage. … The craft beer industry has exploded in our region.
What’s the biggest challenge to doing business in your area?
We live in such a rural and remote area that finding a job close by that pays enough to support your family is not happening for most [people who] live here. It is also difficult to find skilled workforces for any industry.
What are the top two factors that have had the biggest impact on attracting business to your region?
The top two factors that have the biggest impact on attracting business to Southwest Virginia are having existing skilled labor or a pipeline of skilled labor ready to work and having a tax structure that entices businesses to operate in the area. The other consideration for attracting business is to make sure that there is adequate housing for the workforce.