Go Virginia to Create Roanoke-Blacksburg-Lynchburg Economic Council

Founding leadership of the GO Virginia initiative named 28 people to form a Roanoke-Blacksburg-Lynchburg economic development council.

GO’s board plans to approve the names Tuesday.

GO stands for Growth and Opportunity, a 2016 initiative to promote economic and workforce development. Coalitions of business, education and community leaders will operate in nine parts of the state. The state will budget for region-specific economic and workforce development projects that the regional groups endorse under the plan.

The local council plans to schedule its first meeting in late March and could receive proposals for funding consideration this fall, said John Provo, director of the office of economic development at Virginia Tech. Tech has offered to provide staffing for the local council.

Virginia has tentatively budgeted $28 million for GO this coming fiscal year and next fiscal year, said Elizabeth Rafferty, policy and legislative director for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

It’s all a response to the “significant economic headwinds that our state faces because of federal sequestration and other cuts,” according to the website for GO, a program run by a board picked by the governor and General Assembly.

State leaders have decried low job creation and the state’s over-dependence on public sector and government contractor employment and called for a shift to greater private sector investment and employment. Virginia’s traditional economy is “gone,” according to Gov. Terry McAuliffe. He said new industries that could replace it include cybersecurity, human genome sequencing and data analytics.

“Virginia has lost a lot of ground in the last 10 years or so and this is an opportunity we need to take seriously to address that,” said Ray Smoot, retired chief executive officer of the Virginia Tech Foundation and a regional council nominee.

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