Serving eight different counties including Sussex and Surry, as well as Prince George, Dinwiddie, Petersburg, Hopewell, Colonial Heights and Chesterfield, Virginia’s Gateway Region has been servicing the enhancement of economic development in the Southern Virginia area since 1960.
“We are 75 percent funded by the private sector, and 25 percent by the public sector,” VGR President and CEO Renee Chapline said. “Our budget averages as about a million dollars per year, and of that amount, the five counties and three cities pay in 25 percent of than in order to have their economic development initiatives prepared. We do all of their marketing, all of their research analysis and bring companies to evaluate the entire region.”
VGR is a public, private nonprofit organization which, according to company website, began as The Appomattox Basin Industrial Development Corporation (ABIDCO), formed on April 2, by a small group of area businessmen who had a vision of “attracting business and industry to the Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Hopewell area.”
For the next 25 years, it operated with a part-time staff tasked with “hosting the activities of industrial prospects.” In 1985, under new leadership that recognized the region’s emerging potential, ABIDCO embarked on its new direction of becoming a more active participant in shaping the future economic climate of the area.
Since then, VGR has grown into the economic development partnership between public entities and private industry that it is today. The region’s economy is still evolving and VGR is leading the course for the next 50 years, aiming to ensure the region is a place where global markets become local opportunities and where access is everything.
“It’s the process in Virginia,” Chapline said. “There are 18 regional organizations that represent Virginia around the world and the advantages of working with us is that we respond to them on behalf of the communities. They come in and they want to look at regional numbers. They don’t look at individual counties or cities because typically, when global or domestic companies are looking they want to look at large geographic areas. Working as a regional organization, we serve as their single point of contact and support our communities with our experts and expertise in economic development.”
VGR, according to their website, facilitates new business opportunities, works with existing businesses and advances resources that enhance the economic viability of the region and foster regional cooperation among the public and private entities that are involved in economic development activities.
Their services include Site-selection assistance, property information, labor market analysis, commercial market analysis, financial contacts, job-training assistance, customized research, build-to-suit/design-build coordination, access to regulatory authorities, employee recruitment assistance, coordination of state and local assistance, custom region and site tours, meetings and introductions with business contacts and facilitating discussions with government entities
“The counties and cities have a better opportunity,” Chapline said. “We level the playing field. Most of our communities are smaller communities, and they’re competing with San Diego, Los Angeles, Singapore and it’s not just a domestic competition, it’s an international competition. We have experience doing that.”
VGR’s organization structure consists of the Board of Directors who provide leadership and strategic direction for the organization, the business military council comprised of corporate military leaders and regional management, the public arm which consists of city and county administrators who meet to discuss economic activities in their communities. The team implements the organizations goals and operates as business development consultants. They provide assistance to companies in the region as well as global prospects.
“The advantage for the county is that 75 percent is provided by the private sector corporation from the area,” Chapline said. “It’s quite a value for them.”