SWVA initiative seeks to attract remote workers
Project Fuse aims to interest businesses with remote employees
Project Fuse, a regional cooperative initiative to make Southwest Virginia the location of choice for remote employment, launched Friday with the release of a playbook to attract businesses.
“The global business community seeks options for both attracting the employees they want and managing their operating costs,” Will Payne, managing partner of Coalfield Strategies LLC and campaign lead for InvestSWVA, said in a statement. “Companies need rural community partners who can help them with teleworking and remote working, as Project Fuse explains.”
The Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority (LPRIF) commissioned the playbook — developed over the last four months — with support from the state’s GO Virginia economic development initiative and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. InvestSWVA brought project members together.
“The global pandemic accelerated more than a workplace shift and the remote work opportunity,” Duane Miller, executive director of the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission, chief sponsor of the project, said in a statement. “It has opened a new door into diversifying our economy in Virginia’s Southwest. Given the quality of life we can offer and the support our economic development teams can provide to companies, we commissioned a look into how to match our assets to the opportunity.”
The report includes case studies like Rochester, New York-based medical records company eHealth Technologies Inc.’s establishment of a hub location in Duffield in 2020. Company management has reported lower turnover and higher levels of satisfaction among its area employees in the area. The partnership between Mountain Empire Community College and eHealth Technologies that provides the company tailored training processes also contributed to the location’s success, according to the report.
The study identified four opportunities for LPRIFA localities, which include the city of Norton and the counties of Dickenson, Lee, Scott and Wise.
- Employers are offering support for living remotely and using coworking spaces.
- Companies’ real estate needs have changed.
- Customer service via teleworkers is growing in sophistication and pay scales.
- Companies are looking for partnerships with communities to find and retain quality employees as they compete in a tight labor market.
To take advantage of these opportunities, localities need to meet several conditions: ubiquitous internet connectivity and reliable transportation networks; downtown office buildings with meeting space; affordable, diverse housing options in walkable areas; and an established network with academic partners.
As part of meeting those conditions, localities need to develop their downtowns and deliver universal internet connectivity ahead of schedule, the playbook states.
InvestSWVA is a public-private business research, attraction and marketing campaign launched under the umbrella of the Virginia Tobacco Revitalization Commission, which was created by the General Assembly in 1999 to promote economic growth and development in formerly tobacco-dependent communities.