Governor Terry McAuliffe has recommended that The University of Virginia’s College at Wise receive $100,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the Rally SWVA Emerging Leadership Program. The program is one of 10 projects the governor recommended for funding.

“The Appalachian Regional Commission grants I am announcing today will make a significant difference in this important region of our Commonwealth,” McAuliffe said. “These projects range from major industrial job creation projects to numerous efforts to expand the growing outdoor recreation economy, as well as enhance health access in the region through the Health Wagon. These economic and community development projects will bolster our efforts to build the new Virginia economy and I congratulate each local and regional grantee.”

The ARC funding will build and strengthen community and regional capacity through an emerging leadership development program and expand two community development initiatives, Rally Southwest Virginia and Community Builders.

Rally Southwest Virginia was launched in 2015 by the collaborative, regional, entrepreneurship initiative, Opportunity SWVA. Rally SWVA engages community leaders in working together to make their community a better place for small businesses. The program provides emerging communities with a mini-grant to complete a project that advances the community vision and supports business development. The Rally SWVA process provides positive coaching, leadership development activities, and facilitated discussions that emphasize goal setting based on a shared vision, consensus building, outcome measurement, and moving from talk to action within a six-month timeframe.

Community Builder, a recently piloted program in St. Paul, Haysi, Dungannon and the city of Norton, places community building fellows within the localities to strengthen asset-based economic development and focus on building entrepreneurial ecosystems supporting small business and entrepreneurial ventures.

To build upon these community development programs, the new ARC funding will be use to establish an emerging leadership program in the region. There are other broad leadership building programs in Virginia, but none in Southwest Virginia that are project based with impacts on economic development.

The Go Virginia Region One Council conducted a survey in which communities reported a lack of regional and community leadership, and that presents a major economic development challenge. The survey results emphasized that aging leadership on local and regional boards is common, but there is no succession plan in place in many communities. Thirty percent of those who responded to the survey noted that building leadership capacity and succession planning are the most important tools in terms of economic growth and community development.

Additionally, regional conversations where held in three of the four planning districts ( LENOWISCO, Cumberland Plateau and Mount Rogers). In each of these discussions, the need for intentional development of the next generation of leaders was on the top of minds in event participants, validating the regional need for increased leadership capacity.

Developing regional emerging leaders is an investment in Southwest Virginia. This effort will create a base of leaders with knowledge of the region and an interest and willingness to fill open board positions, start community work groups, and further enhance opportunities for regional collaboration.

Rally SWVA is part of the Opportunity SWVA regional initiative and coordinated through the UVa-Wise Office of Economic Development and Engagement.


Established in 1965, the general goal of the ARC program is to assist the region in achieving economic prosperity that more completely reflects the nation’s overall prosperity. ARC funds are broadly aimed at providing economic development in the Appalachian Region by funding projects that support the goal of building a strong and sustainable asset-based economy by bringing jobs and prosperity to Appalachian communities while preserving their character. The Department of Housing and Community Development works with localities and stakeholders in the region to assist in developing strategic projects that are evaluated by the Department and Governor.