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Institute steps up effort to market Southside / August 19, 2013
Danville Register & Bee
Used with permission

The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research are forming a partnership to market Southside.

The organizations will share an economic development director, a position which will be filled by the alliances’ executive director, Leigh Cockram.

“This opportunity has come at a perfect time, for the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance needs to stretch funding long term in order to be sustainable and the Institute needs someone who understands our regional assets and can market Institute’s facilities for regional economic development purposes,” Cockram said in a release.

The two-year-old alliance has been a one-person shop funded by the Tobacco Commission, with Cockram marketing the region through a virtual office and contracting support services as needed.

The new partnership will give the alliance a better presence through an office at the Institute and access to Institute staff and resources. It will also provide sustained funding for the alliance — the Tobacco Commission’s commitment ends in the 2014 fiscal year. Localities will contribute to the partnership and have their monies matched by the Institute, enlarging the alliances’ budget.

The alliance markets a region that includes Patrick, Henry, Pittsylvania and Halifax counties. Cockram will be working with site consultants to draw attention to the whole region, then direct consultants to local economic development directors as they have interest. The position will have hefty travel requirements.

Jerry Gwaltney, interim director of the Institute, said the partnership helps the Institute, which was always intended to serve the region, to better branch out. He admits the Institute has not met that regional mission, and wants to do better.

“It cannot be a building sitting on a hill for Danville and Pittsylvania County,” he said. “It was envisioned and set up for the whole region.”

Danville’s economic development director, Jeremy Stratton, said the move was a long time coming.

“We were the only area that didn’t have this regional effort,” he said.

(Editor’s note: Jerry Gwaltney served as Halifax County’s interim IDA director for several months prior to the arrival of Mike Sexton at the IDA. The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research also includes Mecklenburg County in its service region)

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