SWVA Economic Forum

Seventh Annual SWVA Economic Forum 5.25.22

We are pleased to announce that the Seventh Annual Southwest Virginia Economic Forum will take place both in-person and online this year and will be open to all who are excited to see how Southwest Virginia continues to collaborate and utilize resources to move the region forward. Our theme of “Building for the Future” will showcase creative and innovative local leaders, strategic partners, and businesses. We are excited about the opportunity to reconnect in person. Registration is required, and we ask that you join us on May 25 for the Southwest Virginia Economic Forum at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise David J. Prior Convocation Center to continue to grow a shared vision of regional collaboration and innovation for Southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia.

Register for the Forum

Early bird registration which runs through April 22 costs are $10 for virtual attendance and $30 in person attendance.  From April 23 on, virtual attendance is $20 and in person $40. Day of conference walk-ins are welcomed.

Meet our generous sponsors

Interested in becoming a sponsor?
Learn about sponsorship opportunities. If you or your organization is interested in becoming an event sponsor, please contact Kalen Hunter (khunter@uvawise.edu) for additional details.

Forum Agenda, May 25, 2022

8:30 a.m.
Event Check-In

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

9:05 a.m.
Meet the Event Emcee
Get to know our event emcee and learn how you can be an active participant in this year’s Forum.
Larry Terry, II, Executive Director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

9:10 a.m.
State of The Region
Now, over two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, is there light at the end of the tunnel as we move towards a post pandemic life? Jason El Koubi will discuss what is on the horizon for Southwest Virginia and will highlight Virginia Economic Development Partnership's Plan for moving the Commonwealth forward.
Jason El Koubi, President & CEO of Virginia Economic Development Partnership

9:45 a.m.
Talent, Talent, & More Talent
Is talent a hot topic in your business and community? This panel will give us insight into the nation-wide workforce shortage, insight into the most recent workforce trends, and solutions to combat this challenge.
Andy Sorrell, Deputy Director of Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission
Dr. Julie Brown, Director of Advanced Learning for the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research

10:45 a.m.
Housing for the Future
With businesses comes the need for workforce, with workforce comes the need for housing. Learn how localities and business are implementing innovative concepts to address the aging and affordable housing shortages in their communities.
Sandra Powell, Senior Deputy Director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
Chris Thompson, Director of Strategic Housing at Virginia Housing
Zachary Mannheimer, Founder & CEO of Alquist

11:45 a.m
Lunch & Network

12:30 p.m.
Betting on Southwest Virginia
The recent announcement of Hard Rock Casino & Hotel locating to Bristol, Virginia has created quite the buzz. Tune in to learn how state entities are supporting this initiative, how Hard Rock staff is working to support communities and business, and how regional entrepreneurs are building on this opportunity.
Allie Evangelista, President at Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Bristol
Karen Hester, Owner of Cranberry Lane, Southern Churn, & Unwind Vacations Rentals
Rita McClenny, President & CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation

1:45 p.m.
Childcare Expansion for the Region’s Workforce – Since the pandemic struck, there has been a spotlight on the childcare shortage in region. Learn how leaders across the region are collaborating with additional stakeholders to launch the ReadySWVA childcare initiative for Southwest Virginia.
Anthony Keck, Executive Vice President for System Innovation and Chief Population Health Officer at Ballad Health
Dr. Agida Manizade, Founding President of Radford Child Development Inc.

Travis Staton, President & CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia

2:45 p.m.

2:50 p.m.
Closing Remarks
Dr. Kris Westover, President of Mountain Empire Community College


Ticket Information
Early bird registration for both in-person and virtual participation will close on April 22, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. ET. Please note that after this date, in-person tickets will increase to $40, and virtual tickets will increase to $20. Ticket sales will remain open until Sunday, May 23, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Ticket Questions & Refunds
If you must make changes to your participation, please contact Kalen Hunter (khunter@uvawise.edu).
*Refunds will only be available for the ticket price. The Eventbrite processing fee is not reimbursable. Refunds will not be available after May 22, 2022.

COVID Guidance
Mask or no mask, it is up to you. We ask that all attendees be kind and respect others’ choices. Disposable masks and hand sanitizing stations will be available.

Lodging Information
Hotel blocks have been reserved for May 24-25, 2022 at the The Inn at Wise, Best Western, and Western Front Hotel. Reference code "Economic Forum" when reserving your room to receive the event block rate.

  • The Inn at Wise (276-321-7600)
    $109 per night (plus taxes), block ends April 22, 2022
    Distance from event venue: 1 mile
  • Best Western (276-328-3500)
    $83 per night (plus taxes), block ends May 1, 2022
    Distance from event venue: 2.3 miles
  • Western Front Hotel (276-738-3040)
    $89 per night (plus taxes), block ends May 1, 2022
    Distance from event venue: 20.1 miles

Event Parking
Event activities will take place inside of the David J. Prior Convocation Center (Location #2 on the campus map). Parking is free and is available in the upper lots noted on the campus map.
*Do not park in front of the David J. Prior Convocation Center as this area must remain clear at all times for emergency vehicles.

Event Social Media & Website
To receive the most recent event updates, follow us on the Southwest Virginia Economic Forum Facebook page and make sure to check out the event website.

Students interested in participating
If you are a student currently enrolled in the university/college or community college system, please use your college/university email to contact Kalen Hunter (khunter@uvawise.edu) to receive the student scholarship.

Interested in becoming a sponsor?
If you or your organization is interested in becoming an event sponsor, please contact Kalen Hunter (khunter@uvawise.edu) for additional details.

Media Inquiries
If your organization is interested in covering the event, please contact Senta Scarborough (gez5dz@uvawise.edu) for additional information.

General Event Inquires


Any questions regarding the event can be directed to Kalen Hunter, Director of Economic Development and GO Virginia Region One at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

Kalen Hunter


Program Director GO Virginia