SWVA Economic Forum



We’re pleased to announce that the Fifth Annual Southwest Virginia Economic Forum will take place online this year and will be open to all who are excited to see the resiliency of Southwest Virginia, despite the pandemic. Our theme of Place will provide you emerging and insightful topics through some great speakers, panels and interactive discussion. We are excited for the opportunity to connect online without boundaries. Join us on September 2 on the Forum Facebook page to continue to grow a shared vision of regional collaboration, growth and innovation for all of Southwest Virginia.

Forum Agenda Day 1, September 2, 2020

9:00 AM
Opening Welcome
Join us as we introduce the vision for the first all-digital Southwest Virginia Economic Forum.
Donna P. Henry, Chancellor of UVA Wise

9:05 AM
Emcee’s Introduction
Get to know our event emcee and learn how you can be an active participant in this Forum.
Ben Muldrow, Partner at Arnett Muldrow & Associates and emcee of this Forum

9:10 AM
Building Place in Scary Times: How Communities Can Emerge Stronger from 2020
Everyone agrees: 2020 is kicking our butts. But are there silver linings? How can a small community successful weather this storm? Place attachment expert Melody Warnick, author of This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are, will share inspiring stories and ideas for place leaders looking to nurture a sense of community, build a resilient economy, and engage residents in an optimistic vision of the future—no matter what that future throws at you.
Melody Warnick, journalist and author of This is Where you Belong

10:00 AM
Creating Change Based on Two Case Studies by GO Virginia Region One
A two-part session, “Creating Change” will include an overview of GENEDGE, a re-tooling initiative for Virginia’s manufacturers that was funded by the Commonwealth’s first statewide Competitive Economic Resilience & Recovery grant. Bill Donohue, President & Executive Director of GENEDGE, will share how advanced manufacturers across the Commonwealth of Virginia are reinventing themselves and growing the next chapter of their story. This presentation will also feature what happened when GO Virginia Region One collaborated with seven higher education institutions to mobilize the talent of Southwest Virginia in cross-disciplinary teams of students that assisted small businesses with developing and enhancing their online presence. Learn how students supported businesses with this virtual shift and what their visions are for the future of this region from Beth Rhinehart, Vice-Chair of the GO Virginia Region One Council & President and CEO of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce. This panel discussion will feature three students from Bluefield College, Mountain Empire Community College, and The University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
Bill Donohue, President & Executive Director of GENEDGE
Beth Rhinehart, Vice-Chair of the GO Virginia Region One Council &
President and CEO of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce
Casey Taylor, Student at UVA Wise
Danielle Lamb, Student at Mountain Empire Community College
Gavin Bauer, Student at Bluefield College

11:00 AM
The Big Pivot: Creating the Future
Now that we’ve identified new ways to navigate crises, what’s next for the future of SWVA? What does the new version of “business as usual” look like moving forward?
Melanie Protti-Lawrence, Co-Owner of Lawrence Brothers Industries
Stephen Curd, Lavelle

Forum Agenda Day 2, September 3, 2020

9:00 AM
Day Two Welcome
Our emcee will review yesterday’s highlights and introduce today’s focus.
Ben Muldrow, emcee

9:05 AM
Crisis Creates Strong Towns
Towns are always looking to create new leaders, and sometimes those folks emerge during crises. This presentation will discuss how new leaders help build stronger towns and investigate how crises create leadership that shifts its thinking to prosper.
Chuck Marohn, Founder and President of Strong Towns

10:05 AM
Leading Through Crisis
For this panel, we asked a group of leaders from various industries in Southwest Virginia to highlight the remarkable assets and resources of our area that they leveraged through the COVID-19 crisis. You’ll also learn tips about “leading through crisis” from how leaders in energy infrastructure, tourism, education, and manufacturing who steered their organizations through the pandemic.
Brad Hall, Vice President of External Affairs at American Electric Power
Becky Nave, Development Specialist in Partnership Marketing for Virginia Tourism Corporation
Joseph Puckett, General Manager, Point Broadband
Donna P. Henry, Chancellor of UVA Wise
Facilitated by Shannon Blevins, Vice Chancellor of Economic Development and Strategic Initiatives at UVA Wise

11:00 AM
Rising Above the Fear of Change
Join Brandon Dennison of Coalfield Development and Steve Lawson of Big Stone Gap as they discuss leading their communities in changing times without fear.
Brandon Dennison, Executive Director of Coalfield Development Corporation
Steve Lawson, Town Manager of Big Stone Gap, Va.

Wrap Up & Next Steps
Let’s work together to continue the conversations from this Forum. Community to collectively brainstorm follow-up opportunities.
Ben Muldrow, emcee