The Fredericksburg area will be a buzzing hub of commerce where opportunities abound for people and businesses to thrive. This vision for the region was unveiled at the Transformation 20/20 Regional Economic Development Summit held Oct. 29 at the University of Mary Washington’s Stafford Campus.
The summit convened business leaders, economic development directors and local government administrators throughout the region to engage in the process of crafting a realistic and sustainable blueprint for economic growth. The ongoing process, which is spearheaded by UMW, has involved more than 200 community and business leaders over the past year.
“The Fredericksburg region is well-positioned for future growth,” said keynote speaker Christine Chmura, president of Chmura Economics and Analytics, which recently completed an industry cluster analysis for the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance. The region, Planning District 16, includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George and Caroline. Chmura noted that the region’s growth rate of 2.4 percent puts it far above the national average of slightly less than one percent and makes it one of the fastest growing areas of the country.
Her study identified six “priority” clusters that are anticipated to experience the most growth and on which regional leaders should focus attention: business services; finance, insurance and real estate; health and life sciences; information and communications, manufacturing, and public administration.
Summit speakers pointed out that the region’s infrastructure, transportation, land usage, job training and other components have not kept pace with such rapid growth.
Those are areas that will require concerted efforts and regional collaboration. Other goals identified at the summit include:
- Encourage business development, especially entrepreneurial growth
- Become a tourist destination
- Promote training and education for current and future jobs
- Build economic resilience
- Create a regional lance use plan
Also revealed at the summit were the results of a study conducted by Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Next Generation of Business Leaders. In their survey of about 200 local young professionals between the ages of 21 and 40, more than half indicated they plan to stay in the area for a decade or longer. They like the slower-paced lifestyle of Fredericksburg and believe it’s a great place to raise a family.
UMW President Richard V. Hurley chairs the regional economic development leadership group, along with Fred Rankin, President and CEO of Mary Washington Healthcare. Hurley said he stepped up to the plate because he sees public service as a role of a university. While many attempts have been made over the years to have all the localities face regional economic issues collaboratively, he sees the current initiative as having staying power. “The University is neutral,” he said. “If anybody could undertake this effort without suspicion, it would be us.”
Rankin added, “We’ve achieved some amount of success. Now we need to take collaboration to the next step . . . We will not be successful unless we find a way to come together in regional collaboration.”