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Governor’s Rural Prosperity Summit held in town

Virginia is leading the way in broadband partnerships and is poised to become the first large state in the union with universal coverage in 2024. That goal was a refrain of the two-day Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity, which was held Nov. 4 and 5 in Farmville. Presented by The Virginia Rural Center, the meeting focused on economic development, community vibrancy, connectivity, rural health and more and featured experts from across the commonwealth.

According to a release from The Virginia Rural Center, the event, hosted by Longwood University, addressed services many Americans take for granted — like broadband and health care — that are less reliable in rural communities.

“Broadband is like electrification was in the 1900s — it’s a necessity,” said Governor Northam.

“This is a story of partnerships start to finish,” added Evan Feinman, Governor Northam’s chief broadband advisor. “As long as he continues the program, Virginia will close the digital divide during Governor-Elect Youngkin’s term.”

Lt. Gov.-Elect Winsome Sears participated virtually while traversing the commonwealth, reinforcing her commitment to rural Virginia.

Highlights included a sneak peek of the 2022-2026 Virginia Rural Health Plan and Data Commons which will be unveiled next month, updates on the U.S. Census and regional economic development opportunity, panels on regional entrepreneurship and successful broadband partnerships and an interactive tour of community revitalization projects in Farmville.

“Companies around the world are choosing to be in Virginia,” said Northam. “Virginia has been the best state for business three years in a row with $77 billion in capital investment coming into the commonwealth. Ensuring our rural communities have access to broadband, health care, affordable housing and local tourism assets is vital as we continue to show businesses all the benefits of locating in rural Virginia.”

“One of the most common reasons we lose manufacturing contracts is not having prepared sites,” added Stephen Moret, CEO and president of Virginia Economic Development Partnership. “Regional cooperation is absolutely critical.”

“Ribbon cuttings are great, but we prefer anniversary parties,” said Rebecca Rowe, associate director of community revitalization for the Department of Housing and Community Development. “Successful communities are those that are in touch with what their entrepreneurs need for sustainability in the long term.”

Key speakers included:

• Gov. Ralph Northam

• Northam’s Chief Broadband Advisor Evan Feinman

• House Delegate and Chair of the Virginia Rural Center Roslyn Tyler

• Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring

• Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Cassidy Rasnick

• Sen. and Chair of Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council Jennifer Boysko

• Sen. Monty Mason

• Sen. Frank Ruff

• Sen. Mark Peake

• CEO & President of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Stephen Moret

The event also marked the launch of the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute, the mission of which is to increase rural prosperity by retaining, attracting and developing rural Virginians into innovative, responsible and civic-minded leaders who build strong local and regional communities. Applications for the inaugural cohort are due March 15, 2022, and the cost is $2,500 (a $1,000 discount). The program will consist of four weekends in May, July, September and November, located across the commonwealth. The institute is seeking diverse participation from elected officials, government staff, nonprofit and faith-based leaders, business leaders, economic development professionals and other community-minded rural Virginians. An information packet can be downloaded on the organization’s website.

About the Virginia Rural Center:

The Virginia Rural Center is a collaborative partnership of the Center for Rural Virginia and the Council for Rural Virginia. These two organizations established a collective services agreement to work jointly toward the mission of economic prosperity for rural communities throughout Virginia. Together, the Center for Rural Virginia and the Council for Rural Virginia work with federal, state and local policymakers and regulators as well private sector stakeholders to improve economic opportunities and preserve quality of life throughout rural Virginia. Learn more about the Virginia Rural Center on Facebook at @VirginiaRuralCenter and Twitter at @VARuralCenter or using the hashtag #GrowRuralVA.