The new head of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership is vowing not to forget the southwestern part of the state. As Robbie Harris reports, his agency will face special scrutiny after it was criticized for lack of oversight and wasting taxpayer money.
Stephen Moret was a top economic development official in Louisiana where he was known for a successful customized job recruitment program. As the new President and CEO of the Virginia’s Economic Development Partnership he says he won’t consider his tenure a success unless he helps every region of the state move3 into positive economic territory, and he’s planning to visit every one. Here’s what he had to say during a stop in Wytheville.
“ Everyone is aware that the growth of Virginia as a whole has slowed down, but what hasn’t been talked about enough is that when you look at the last 5 years, almost half of the 133 counties and independent cities in Virginia actually shrank in population including a strong majority in this general part of Virginia.”
Moret says it’s clear southwest Virginia needs a bigger economic push than other parts of the commonwealth. He believes there are opportunities in its existing manufacturing work force, its natural beauty, and the fact that there are 2 interstates feeding the region. The general assembly, which created the VEDP in 1995, will be keeping a close eye on how it manages its 27- million dollars a year in funding. Last April, an investigation by The Roanoke Times found it had given $1.4 million in incentives to a Chinese company for a manufacturing plant in Appomattox County that never happened.