Striving Towards a Thriving Economy

School of Professional & Continuing Education (SPCE)

Tuesday August 23, 2022 was a day of promise and excitement as over 130 community leaders from all sectors within a seven county region of the Shenandoah Valley gathered in the Club Room at the Atlantic Union Bank Center to convene and collaborate on workforce issues. This was the second event of the Regional Economic Recovery Series, with the first being in August, 2021. During that inaugural event JMU convened leaders from K-12 and higher education, healthcare, nonprofits, corporations, small businesses, local governments, Chambers of Commerce, Community Foundations, and communities of faith. The leaders determined the four primary issues that they have personally experienced have impacted their workforces: childcare, transportation, housing, and workforce training. After that inaugural event, five individuals volunteered to be established as chairs of these priority areas of action. These individuals would lead the charge to create a plan to tackle these issues. The chairs are:

  • Transportation Co-Chairs: Ben Craig, Director of Annual Giving at Sentara RMH (former Executive Director at Way To Go, Inc.) and Vici Garber, Regional Director for Shenandoah Initiative for Adult Education
  • Housing Chair: Dany Fleming, Chair of the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority
  • Childcare Chair: Chris Quinn, CEO of Harrisonburg Rockingham Chamber of Commerce
  • Workforce Training Co-Chairs: Sharon Johnson, CEO of Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board and Vici Garber, Regional Director for Shenandoah Initiative for Adult Education

This year, with the Shenandoah Valley continuing to experience workforce shortages and challenges, individuals from these same sectors determined to make a positive impact are joining together to find solutions to these priority areas of action. Dr. Nicholas Swartz of JMU along with the chairs, and with the generous sponsorship from Shenandoah Valley Airport and Atlantic Union Bank, planned a full day of information, encouragement, and practical action items. Many were returning faces from last year’s event while others were new faces in these sectors who heard about the work being done and decided to add their energy and expertise to help our region reach its economic potential.

The event consisted of five separate panels, each composed of experts in each of the priority areas of action to discuss current trends, challenges, opportunities, and potential solutions. These panels consisted of leaders from ShenGo, Center for Mobility Management, Massanutten Resort, Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, City of Harrisonburg, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia Realtors Association, and US Chamber Foundation, among others. The fifth panel consisted of JMU Chief Economic Engagement Officer Dr. Melissa Lubin, JMU President Jon Alger, and RMH Foundation CEO Cory Davies. This panel was devoted to discussing the role of anchor institutions, typically the biggest employers in a region, in aiding and supporting regional economic development and workforce.

We look forward to seeing the strides that will be taken within the next year and beyond in these priority areas of action to help our region’s workforce and economy grow, strengthen, and thrive.

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Published: Monday, October 10, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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