RD598 - Virginia Economic Development Partnership – Executive Summaries of the Strategic Plan, FY 2018 Transitional Marketing Plan, and FY 2017 - 2018 Operational Plan

Executive Summary:

One of the wealthiest and most beautiful states in America, the Commonwealth of Virginia is blessed with exceptional human capital, geographic, and infrastructure assets. Widely viewed as an attractive state for business, Virginia also is home to a diverse array of leading private-sector firms, national labs, and important military installations, as well as one of the most educated populations in the country. By any reasonable measure, Virginia is one of America’s premier states. For two decades, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) has served as Virginia’s state economic development authority, pursuing its duty to “encourage, stimulate, and support the development and expansion of the economy of the Commonwealth," as prescribed in the Code of Virginia. Like the special Commonwealth that it serves, VEDP has long been regarded as among the best in the country.

While the Commonwealth and VEDP remain well regarded on the national stage, both have experienced challenges over the last decade. With an economy highly reliant on the federal government, Virginia has endured a substantial slowdown in economic growth due to sequestration, dropping from ranking in the top 10 states to the bottom 15. Moreover, like rural America, much of rural Virginia has struggled in recent years, with several regions facing population losses and an expectation of continued decline. These trends led the current governor to intensify efforts to diversify Virginia’s economic base and work to build a “New Virginia Economy."

Additionally, in contrast to a decade ago when the Commonwealth was ranked the best or nearly the best state for business in most business climate rankings, Virginia today ranks outside the top 10 best states for business in every published national survey of corporate executives and/or site-selection consultants. Likewise, VEDP, which once was one of the most innovative and best regarded state economic development organizations (EDOs) in America, experienced a decline in its efficiency, effectiveness, and reputation. Indeed, a report published last year by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) opened with a devastating assessment: “VEDP is not an efficiently or effectively managed organization."

In the wake of comprehensive VEDP reform legislation passed in early 2017 and the election of a new governor, the Commonwealth of Virginia and VEDP face an important juncture in their respective histories. Working in close consultation with leaders in the Administration and General Assembly, with the participation of hundreds of VEDP’s local, regional, and state partners, and with assistance from top management consultants and economic development experts, VEDP’s Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer, and staff have crafted this Strategic Plan to clearly articulate what it would take to reestablish Virginia as one of the country’s economic leaders and VEDP as one of America’s most effective state EDOs. Based on robust analyses and best practices, the strategies and initiatives described herein, if fully implemented over the next five years (FY19-FY23), would leverage the Commonwealth’s distinctive strengths to position Virginia for a brighter economic future – one with more high-wage jobs and geographically shared prosperity. Without implementation of this plan or a compelling alternative, national economic analysts (e.g., Moody’s, Emsi) forecast that the Commonwealth will continue to economically underperform its top competitor states (e.g., Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) over the next decade.

This document was crafted to meet the new requirement in the Code of Virginia for the VEDP Board and its CEO to develop “a strategic plan for specific economic development activities for the Commonwealth as a whole." Responsive to the comprehensive economic development plan developed by the Administration, this Strategic Plan includes specific goals and objectives (i.e., strategies and initiatives), as well as performance measures; a comprehensive assessment of how VEDP can best add value relative to each of its statutory duties and powers; and other content focused on accomplishing the transformational goals described below. Finally, this Strategic Plan is designed to help ensure that VEDP permanently addresses the various deficiencies highlighted in JLARC’s 2016 report, “Management and Accountability of the Virginia Economic Development Authority," which detailed how the organization could improve its governance, efficiency, effectiveness, coordination, and accountability, as well as strengthen its administration of incentives.