SWVA Economic Forum

Sixth Annual SWVA Economic Forum May 26-27, 2021

Every year, the Forum engages participants through a shared vision of regional collaboration, growth and innovation for all of Southwest Virginia. It has become a central gathering place for the region to discuss new ideas and synergies to build Southwest Virginia’s future. And you can be a part of that momentum. This year's theme was CONNECTIVITY.

An array of engaging speakers from within and outside of our Southwest Virginia community gathered for the 2021 Forum and presented about connecting to move our region forward.

Presenting Sponsors

UVA Wise & Go Virginia Region One

View a complete list of our generous sponsors.

Forum Agenda Day 1, May 26, 2021

9:00 a.m.
Opening Welcome
Join us as we introduce the vision for the second all-digital Southwest Virginia Economic Forum.
Donna P. Henry, Chancellor of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise

9:05 a.m.
Emcee’s Introduction
Get to know our event emcee for day one and learn how you can be an active participant in this year’s Forum.
Olivia Bailey, Multi-Media Journalist at New 5 WCYB and emcee for day one of this Forum

9:10 a.m.
State of The Region
2020 was quite the rollercoaster, but take a deep breath and join us as we evaluate the health of the region. Stephen Moret will discuss the impacts of COVID-19 and highlight what is on the horizon.
Stephen Moret, President & CEO of Virginia Economic Development Partnership

9:35 a.m.
Southwest Virginia’s Opportunities
The recently awarded GO Virginia Regional Entrepreneurship Initiative (REI) was launched by Opportunity Southwest Virginia to identify the entrepreneurial strengths and assets of Southwest Virginia. Tune in to learn how you can contribute and connect with this regional movement.
Tom Chapman, President & CEO of Chapman and Company

10:00 a.m.
Women in Entrepreneurship, Communicating Your Message
Have you ever wondered if your message is appealing to your target audience? Alissa Miller has mastered the art of communication. Learn how Alissa embarked on her entrepreneurial journey and is helping others build deep connections through scientific precision.
Alisa Miller, CEO & Co-Founder of Pluralytics

10:35 a.m.
Southwest Virginia’s Entrepreneurs in Action – This panel of local entrepreneurs have remained resilient, launching their business mid-pandemic and keeping a fresh perspective on operations. Learn how these businesses owners supported their communities through a trying year, and how they continue to grow their roots in Southwest Virginia.
Blake Salyer, Co-Owner & Managing Partner at Lincoln Road Coffee Lounge
Collin O’Donnell, Owner & Founder of The Grind Bluefield Coffeeshop & Eatery
Nicole Dyer, Founder & Owner of White Birch Food & Juice
Facilitated by Leah Fremouw, Senior Vice President & Director of Community Innovation at Virginia Community Capital

11:30 a.m.
Southwest Virginia:  Worth the Investment
Since the pandemic struck there has been a surge in real estate and relocation to rural America. Troy Bravenboer was ahead of this trend when he chose to locate his freight company in St. Paul, Virginia, utilizing the coworking facilities in the Oxbow Center. Learn why Troy chose to invest in Southwest Virginia and what attracted him to the region.
Troy Bravenboer, President & Founder of Brave Freight & AirMax Logistics

Forum Agenda Day 2, May 27, 2021

9:00 a.m.
Day Two Welcome & Emcee’s Introduction – Get to know our day two event emcee who will review yesterday’s highlights and introduce today’s focus.
Doug Jackson, Capacity Development Specialist at Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development

9:05 a.m.
Think Strategically, Act Tactfully
We can all agree that economic development doesn’t happen overnight. Nancy Whitworth will discuss the importance of establishing public private partnerships that result in long-term economic and community development.
Nancy Whitworth, Advisor with OneSpartanburg, Inc. and Former Director of Economic & Community Development at the City of Greenville, South Carolina

9:40 a.m.
Locals Leading Our Communities
For this panel, we asked local leaders from Southwest Virginia to highlight their remarkable community assets that are being transformed by utilizing federal funding opportunities. You will learn tips about strategic investments and partnerships that can help navigate your next revitalization venture.
Keith Barker, City Manager of the City of Galax, Virginia
Kim Ross, Owner & Founder of mountTERRA LLC
Facilitated by Ken Heath, Director of Community & Economic Development of the Town of Marion, Virginia

10:30 a.m.
From Grain to Growler
Is it too early to talk about craft beer? This dynamic duo will discuss their strategic partnerships with local farmers who are using innovative technology to grow and harvest barley that is being used in by Virginia breweries. You will learn how regional and state collaboration is shifting the paradigm of agriculture in Southwest Virginia.
Dr. Kristen Westover, President of Mountain Empire Community College
Will Payne, Director of InvestSWVA

11:00 a.m.
Everybody Has Ambition
Join Ben Muldrow and Douglas Jackson as they discuss how communities across the country have sparked an entrepreneurial movement that has led to a refreshing transformation. They will highlight how we can continue working together to keep the entrepreneurial snowball rolling.
Ben Muldrow, Partner at Arnett Muldrow & Associates
Doug Jackson, Capacity Development Specialist at Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development

Program Director for Economic Development
& GO Virginia Region One