RD707 - Virginia Growth and Opportunity Board 2021 Annual Report

Executive Summary:

In FY21, the program awarded more than $31M in support of 68 projects across the Commonwealth. This was an 81% increase in awards from the fund over the prior year and demonstrates the program’s continued growth and maturity. Much of this expanded activity can be attributed to the GO Virginia Regional Councils who co-developed and advanced a number of high-impact statewide competitive applications, totaling $7.5M.

The GO Virginia State Board held four meetings and the deliberations and board actions are described in detail in Section 5 of this report. Of significance, the Board extended the Economic Resilience and Recovery initiative and allowed regions who exhausted their original allotment of funds to use up to $500,000 of the regular per capita fund allocation to support qualifying projects. This initiative continues to drive significant regional collaboration through business continuity and recovery efforts designed to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. The Board also amended its sites and infrastructure policy to allow for investments in privately owned sites, with DHCD developing conforming guidelines to support this effort. The process for developing these guidelines engaged state, regional, and local economic developers as well as the private development community.

In partnership with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a series of Sites and Infrastructure Forums were conducted. These allowed Regional Councils to better understand and utilize the results of the sites characterization initiative and how that information could support their prioritization efforts, as well as guide future GO Virginia investments.

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce Virginia Chamber Blueprint Tour commenced this year and a series of listening events were held, with one in each GO Virginia Region. These events allowed Regional Council leadership to describe their region’s opportunities and challenges, and speak to the strategies they are using to support economic growth and diversification efforts.

Building on a series of successful investments in work-based learning experiences and investments, SCHEV launched its regional internship initiative pilot to better coordinate and advance work-based learning practices across educational institutions. This pilot was launched in GO Virginia Regions 2 and 4.

Since program inception and through June 30, 2021, GO Virginia has awarded $67.1 million in funding for 185 projects across the Commonwealth. In the spirit of regional collaboration, GO Virginia projects require the participation of two or more localities and matching funds from nonstate sources. These project awards have leveraged more than $81.0 million in additional funding from public and private sources. Appendix A provides a detailed list of funded projects and project descriptions.

The GO Virginia State Board has previously identified four priority investment areas; startup ecosystem, cluster scale-up, workforce development, and site development and infrastructure. These strategies have been recognized as essential building blocks for sustaining and accelerating the growth of traded industry clusters, interrelated firms who together contribute significantly to Virginia’s total economic output. Firms in supported traded cluster are positioned to compete to serve national and international markets and most importantly, drive wealth-creating employment opportunities for Virginians.

The chart on page 6 shows the distribution of GO Virginia funds across these focused investment areas since program inception.

Program Impact

The GO Virginia Growth and Opportunity program represents a bold new approach to economic development. In four short years, the program has produced results consistent with its promise. GO Virginia investments have resulted in higher levels of regional collaboration, and supported high-impact projects that are delivering near term results and sustained new capacity in regions while improving economic competitiveness across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Regional Collaboration – Probably the most notable impact of the program has been the marked increase in regional collaboration. By creating incentives and rewarding collaborative approaches to economic development, the program has incentivized more than 185 public entities to meaningfully participate in collaborative regional economic development initiatives, including 131 local governments (counties, cities, towns), 18 economic development organizations/authorities, 30 school divisions, as well as numerous planning district commissions, workforce boards, and community-based not for profits. The partnerships formed through GO Virginia funded projects build lasting capacity that are transforming regional economies well beyond the initial grant funding.

Notable examples from FY21 include activities that are scaling emerging high value industry clusters, including offshore wind in Hampton Roads (Region Five), pharmaceutical manufacturing in Greater Richmond (Region 4), and new energy storage and electrification strategies for Southwest Virginia (Region 1). Building on strengths and assets from these regions, GO Virginia has helped partners to mobilize and accelerate their efforts to diversify and strengthen their regional economies.

Also notable is GO Virginia’s support in the creation of new capacity to collaborate with four new Regional Industrial Facilities Authorities (RIFAs). RIFAs are supporting additional large-scale investments in infrastructure and site improvements, allowing cost and revenue sharing amongst partners as well as reducing costly and inefficient inter-regional competition. High-Wage Jobs and Diversifying the Economy - GO Virginia embraces a logic model developed by the US Economic Development Authority (EDA) that recognizes initial baseline conditions through the development and periodic revisions of regional Growth and Diversification Plans. These plans and strategies within these plans become the playbook that drives projects at the regional level. Funds support project activities that align to outcomes in one or more GO Virginia core program performance metrics.

Through June 30, 2021, GO Virginia projects have pledged to achieve the following outcomes during their grant performance period.

• 24,391 Jobs created

• 420 New apprenticeships

• 2,483 Credentials awarded

• 1,496 New internship opportunities created

• 13,020 Businesses served

• 837 New Businesses created

• 5,630 Acres of Development Sites Characterized or Advanced a Tier according to the criteria established in the Virginia Business Ready Sites program