RD171 - Center for Rural Virginia 2020 – 2021 Annual Report

Executive Summary:

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to report that The Center for Rural Virginia (The Center) made great strides to advance rural Virginia and address concerns that have challenged our rural communities. While we did make great success, it would be remiss if we didn’t recognize that the Center was presented with challenges in the 2020-2021 operating year that are due to the continued implications brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Center was proud to officially launch the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute (VRLI) in 2021. The mission of VRLI is to retain, attract, and develop rural Virginians into innovative and civic minded leaders who build strong local and regional communities and bring prosperity across the rural areas in the Commonwealth. VRLI was originally born as a mechanism to address the declining populations happening in many communities throughout rural Virginia. There are countless stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth who have recognized the need for capacity building and leadership development, but The Center decided to step up and take on this challenge. The Center and countless stakeholders view VRLI as part of the overall solution to retaining and attracting leaders in our rural areas.

The Center fundraised throughout 2020 and into 2021 from mostly private sector dollars to establish VRLI and hire the appropriate staff to facilitate the program. The VRLI curriculum is a three-part approach, including leadership skill building, understanding rural issues and the completion of a community impact project. After a rigorous hiring process, in July 2021 the Center retained a contractor who will serve as the Program Director of VRLI and point of contact for the program.

In addition to the creation and launch of VRLI, The Center has continued focusing on its role to serve as a facilitator, educator, advocate and producer of programs and collaborative initiatives to promote economic prosperity in rural Virginia. The Center has prioritized their focus on broadband deployment to our unserved areas, rural economic development, education, access to rural housing, entrepreneurship and small business, agriculture, and regional opportunities.

To accomplish its mission, The Center continued existing efforts, as well as took on new initiatives and programs to promote rural prosperity across the Commonwealth. The Center was pleased to host the “Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity" in a face-to-face format at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. Governor Northam served as the keynote speaker and several members of his Cabinet participated in the Summit.

Highlights of the past year include: The 2021 Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity, the Virginia General Assembly Rural Caucus virtual meeting during the 2021 legislative session which the executive director served as staff for and participation in the 2021 virtual Local Government Day (which took the place of our traditional face-to-face Rural Caucus Reception). Additionally, The Center launched the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute, the first and only program in the Commonwealth focused entirely on retaining and attracting leaders in rural Virginia.

Enclosed in this report, you will find a detailed summary of the Center’s activities throughout this operating year. It has been a great honor to work and meet with many of you as I traveled in-person and virtually around the state visiting rural communities throughout Virginia. It is the dedication and hard work of our Board members that make the impact of the Center for Rural Virginia possible. I look forward to another year of innovation, collaboration, and new initiatives to promote and enhance rural Virginia.

Best regards,

Kristie Helmick Proctor
Executive Director