School of Professional & Continuing Education (SPCE)

Shenandoah Valley Partnership


Get to know our affiliate organization, Shenandoah Valley Partnership (SVP), with Executive Director Jay Langston. An "old friend" doing phenomenal work in the Valley!

How long have you been an affiliate organization with PCE?

“The Shenandoah Valley Partnership has been an affiliate organization since our organization's inception in approximately 1995 to 1996. No one is really sure! We are still the only regional economic development organization in Virginia to be affiliated with a university.”

If you could describe your organization’s purpose and what it provides for the community in three sentences or less, how would you describe it?

“Our mission is to provide a better quality of life for our citizens through the economic prosperity derived from new business investment and high-paying jobs.”

What is your geographical scope of your organization?

“The twelve localities, 7 counties and 5 cities, along 140 miles of I-81 from Rockbridge County to Shenandoah County to the north, and from Bath and Highland Counties to Page County.”

How do you see your organization benefitting from your partnership with JMU? What strengths and opportunities do you see within that partnership?

“The availability of resources to help us with business infrastructure and providing customized solutions to our existing companies. Our affiliation with JMU also helps us leverage working with the other higher education institutions in the Valley - in other words, we can point to examples and say 'JMU is doing this' and 'we're working with JMU on this, and we can do the same with you.' JMU's name recognition doesn't hurt either.”

How have you seen your organization succeed, adapt, and/or grow over the past year?

“We took a big leap of faith and transitioned our marketing outreach to the virtual environment. In doing so, we embraced some activities that we would likely not have attempted otherwise. The risk:reward proposition was so inconsequential that we felt there was not harm in offering traditional in-person economic development activities virtually. Therefore, we conducted familiarization tours, lunch-and-learns, our annual meeting (from Pale Fire no less!), prospect visits, economic development forums, informational sessions and even a cooking class via Zoom. Some of these functions would not have been considered otherwise. It has turned into a very productive and fun venture and has set SVP apart from the crowded field of economic developers.”

Tell us about one recent (within the past 1.5-2 years) accomplishment that you wish to highlight.

“Three things, because it's like asking which is your favorite child:

1. The Merck expansion of $1 BILLION due in a great part to the role that JMU and Blue Ridge Community College have played in providing a customized workforce solution.

2. Next, for what we thought was going to be a slow 2020, it turned out to be a productive year. For the first time in my 36+ career in economic development, we had 3 major announcements in 3 consecutive weeks in November. And it has not stopped there. We have pending announcements in the pipeline.

3. I also have to give a plug as an honorable mention to the SVP Virtual Cooking Class in which we celebrated and show-cased Hershey's accomplishments in the Valley to 8 site location consultants using Hershey products and other locally produced products to make cookies and interview 2 guest about workforce training and the quality of life in the Valley. After sending the customized container and Valley ingredients to the consultants, some followed along to produce the cookies and they all said they had a blast!”

How do you see your partnership with PCE growing and evolving even more over the next few years?

“Talent retention and attraction. The future of economic prosperity in the Valley is going to hinge on retaining and recruiting talent to fill the hundreds of jobs available in the Valley. To wit, in just naming 5 of our major corporations in the Valley, we currently have approximately 750 open jobs. These range from engineering to line workers, from accountants to operations specialists. PCE and the flexibility afforded by offering specialized instruction can help us fill some of the positions and showcase how this model can be adopted by our other Valley institutions. This is the future for economic development in the Valley.”

Back to Top

Published: Thursday, April 1, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Related Articles