McGuire named to Lead Virginia

Published 11:23 am Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lead Virginia, as the name implies, is dedicated to developing leaders. Every year this statewide leadership program is offered to senior-level executives in business, education, non-profit and government agencies in communities across the commonwealth. Included in the Class of 2016 is Sheri McGuire, executive director of Longwood’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

The thing that excites me is getting to learn about different areas of the state and the challenges they’re having,” McGuire said. “There’s always a chance for a different approach to something that is a similar issue here.

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The idea for Lead Virginia came about when former Gov. Mark Warner encouraged a small group of Virginians to explore the feasibility of a statewide leadership program. In April 2005 the inaugural class was launched in Colonial Williamsburg with 39 participants.

Now entering its 12th year, the class of 2016 curriculum will center on the key themes of economy, education and health by examining the technology, economic development, demographics, transportation/growth management and quality of life issues impacting the various regions of the commonwealth.

“There’s a class of 56 this year from all walks of life — from private business to education to health care,” McGuire said. “It’s a good mix of different viewpoints.”

“The 2016 sessions will be held in seven regions throughout the state.”

“It’s one weekend a month from April to November,” McGuire said.

Class members are selected through an application process.

“You have to write a position statement on an issue you think is important,” McGuire said.

Tuition is required. McGuire received a scholarship for half the tuition cost; Longwood University covered the remainder.

“I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity that the scholarship and Longwood have provided,” McGuire said.

McGuire has been with the Longwood SBDC since the early 1990s.

“I interned with this center in 1990-91,” she said.

After graduating from Longwood with a degree in finance, McGuire was offered a managerial position in the SBDC office.

“I’ve been involved ever since,” she said.

The Longwood SBDC provides free services to 60 to 70 businesses in Farmville and Prince Edward each year; they also serve six surrounding counties.

McGuire is looking forward to participating in Lead Virginia and getting to know class members from across the state.

“Networking is how things get done,” McGuire said. “Everyone who has gone through this program says the network, contacts and resources you develop are tremendous.”

McGuire is particularly interested in other communities that include a university or college.

“I’m interested in how all of the elements of economic development in each region connect, especially where there is a higher education presence,” McGuire said. “How does the higher education institution work effectively with their local government in approaching regional growth education — just being a partner in all of that.”

Lead Virginia, McGuire believes, is all about leading communities.

“From what I can tell it’s more of an overview of the leadership and the issues in each region of the state and how they approach solving those issues,” McGuire said.

“Graduates of the Lead Virginia program are better equipped to facilitate change throughout the commonwealth and offer innovative solutions that will positively affect citizens in the years to come,“ Lead Virginia’s CEO said.

“I believe I can bring some of that expertise back with me,” McGuire said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity.”