The City of Lynchburg has a bright future, but its blueprint for economic prosperity is shifting. While the industrial economy of yesterday relied on raw materials and manufacturing skills, today’s knowledge and advanced manufacturing economy centers firmly on access to creative talent and innovation. Because of this, modern companies increasingly view talent attraction and development as their top priorities, unleashing fierce competition across the U.S.
Smaller cities like the City of Lynchburg require a deliberate strategy for competing for new investment and talent. For the last year, the City of Lynchburg has engaged residents, business executives, community leaders and elected officials to create a five-year comprehensive plan to build tomorrow’s Lynchburg and ensure that all residents have the opportunity to thrive.
The plan, which will be launched publicly this week, is built on five key priorities: growing local businesses, engaging anchor institutions, filling workforce pipelines, enhancing quality of place, and communicating Lynchburg’s story to the world.
Identify Industry Advantages and Grow Local Businesses
Just as citizens often move to a location where jobs are plentiful, so too are companies drawn to areas of economic opportunity. In addition to traditional and advanced manufacturing industries, Lynchburg is home to a number of knowledge-based industries, which are key drivers of economic growth. Today, an estimated 70 percent of all jobs and investment are created through the expansion of local companies. To this end, the City will support the growth of its local businesses and attract investment that fuels local supply chains and export clusters such as Metals, Nuclear Technology, Electronic Components, Design Services, and Engineering.
Engage Anchors Institutions as Partners
As some of the largest employers in their communities, anchor institutions (large companies, developers, universities, medical centers, and hospitals) wield enormous economic influence by employing local residents, providing workforce pipelines, and driving development in commercial districts. In Lynchburg, anchors include academic institutions such as Liberty University, Central Virginia Community College, Randolph College and the University of Lynchburg; healthcare institutions, such as Centra Health; and a number of cultural and tourism assets. By engaging these organizations, the City can ensure that all residents reap the benefits of Lynchburg’s growth and development.
Fill Talent Pipelines and Upgrade Workforce Skills
Research has shown that investing in local talent has a major influence on economic development, giving residents the ability to improve their circumstance. In order to weather the inevitable booms and busts of the modern economy, Lynchburg must provide skills training and pathways to job opportunities within the City’s growth industries. While this will not eliminate income stratification or workforce skills gaps, it will allow individual residents to achieve their full economic potential, thereby improving the City’s fiscal growth and stability.
Enhance Quality of Place
One of the most important elements of both talent attraction and economic development is quality of place. Increasingly, cities with a firm “placemaking” strategy—one that leverages their strengths to maximize local health, happiness and well-being—are seeing higher levels of investment and development. This will require intentional efforts, such as implementation of the Downtown 2040 Master Plan and the Regional Connectivity Study. With its fair share of historical and heritage sites, Lynchburg has an opportunity to position itself as a must-see destination for tourists.
Tell the City of Lynchburg’s story.
Economic development is only as powerful as the story it tells. For Lynchburg to be successful in its efforts to attract new talent and companies, is must craft a compelling narrative that signifies who it is and communicates a strong sense of culture and community. By telling a story that highlights local assets such the James River, a walkable urban core, and the presence of five colleges and universities, Lynchburg can distinguish itself from its neighbors and shape a strong public brand.
By following the five priorities behind this new five-year economic development plan, Lynchburg will forge a brighter, more sustainable future for the city and its partners, transforming the community into one of the best small cities in the country.
Marjette Upshur is the Director of the Office of Economic Development and Tourism of the City of Lynchburg. Steven Pedigo a nationally recognized economic development strategy consultant and advisor for the City of Lynchburg, is the director of the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate Urban Lab and a clinical professor at NYU.
This Op-Ed ran in the Lynchburg News & Advance on Sunday, September 16th. View article