Meetings gather CEDS input
Published 9:47 am Thursday, March 21, 2019
Various chamber of commerce organizations in the region, including the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce, provided input on the regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) project being developed by the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC).
The CRC, as part of the CEDS project, is getting input from community members about identifying key economic goals, challenges and advantages of the region, which includes Prince Edward, Buckingham, Amelia, Lunenburg and Charlotte County.
Cumberland and Nottoway counties were asked to participate, but declined.
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The CEDS would allow the region greater opportunity for grant funding from the Economic Development Authority (EDA). The CRC received a grant in 2017 to develop a CEDS.
The Berkley Group, a consulting firm, The Timmons Group, an engineering firm, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, also contributed to the CEDS.
A draft of the CEDS is available at the CRC website, virginiasheartland.org, at the Prince Edward and Buckingham administration offices and at the Prince Edward and Buckingham public libraries.
CRC Executive Director Melody Foster and CEDS Committee Chair Jordan Miles presented an overview of the 49–page CEDS draft, which includes the goals, challenges, demographic information and an overview of the region’s assets and incoming projects.
Performance measures the committee looks to achieve, according to Foster and Miles, include potentially increasing total regional population from approximately 77,582 to more than 80,000. Foster said this would occur over a five-year period.
Other performance measure goals include increasing educational attainment of an associate degree or higher from 21.6 percent to more than 25 percent, decrease rates for the uninsured from 14 percent to less than 10 percent, and increase homeowner rates from 72 percent to 75 percent or more.
This could potentially occur from the CEDS goals to increase workforce development, broaden its industry and business to keep families and revenue in the region, and utilize the area’s educational institutions to provide workforce development and small business training.
Other goals include marketing the region’s assets to employers and industries, such as call and data centers and regional health care clinics.
Chapman “Hood” Frazier and Longwood University Director of Local & Community Relations Jen Cox asked about the CEDS including an overview of early childhood care for students in the region.
Foster and Miles said education had been a discussion among the committee members, but early childhood education specifically was not a subject that had been a targeted focus.
Ilsa Loeser, with Letterpress Communication, asked about the potential to make a goal to increase the educational spending in the region on a per-child basis.
Navona Hart, with Real Living Cornerstone, asked about an emphasis of bringing last mile broadband service to the region, especially in residential areas where internet access is nearly impossible to attain or nonexistent.
Miles and Foster said this would be a priority and spoke about the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Company’s involvement with bringing fiber connections to the region. They acknowledged more needed to be done to address this issue.
Cox and Hart addressed the need for increased aid for area fire and rescue stations, which can impact a business or family’s decision to move to a region. Participants also noted an increasing aging population in the area that would need emergency services.
Foster and Miles said this subject had been brought up frequently.
“The demand of their time, plus the training and the cost of that training, is huge,” Foster said.
Cox asked how the CEDS could help with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) goal to bring economic development opportunities to the region.
Foster said the region having a strategy like CEDS could be advantageous to VEDP to market the region.
“We want to make sure that we have the best strategy,” Foster said, who noted the economic strategy for the region would change and develop with time.
“This is what the EDA wants to hear,” Miles said about the comments made by participants. “These comments will further bolster the potential for the plan getting approved.”
“It’s an integral part of the process,” Miles said about the public comments.
Loeser and D. Brandon Hennessey, with the Longwood Small Business Development Center, asked about the data information presented in the CEDS draft.
The majority of data was gathered from national and state data, such as the U.S. Census Bureau and Virginia Employment Commission. Foster said a regional survey was not conducted.
Loeser suggested placing state or national benchmarks by regional numbers to provide context or comparison between the region, state and nation.
Public comments will be received until March 29. Comments can also be sent directly to Foster at email@example.com.