Forum Highlights


Technology Leads The 2019 SWVA Economic Forum


Keynote Focuses on Transforming Through Technology

Throughout his career, Scott Klososky has lived on the leading edge of technology innovation and its impact on the business world and society in general. He is recognized globally for his unique ability to accurately predict future digital trends and provide the logic behind why they will alter the current status quo.

Scott has the ability to entertain, inspire and enlighten audiences while also translating difficult to understand technology topics. He is known for architecting each presentation specifically for the audience, and with the very latest information available. Topics include content such as the importance of organizational digital maturity, leading through the Digital Transformation, cybersecurity, machine intelligence, data intelligence, trendspotting, digital marketing, and best practices for digital governance.

Breakout Sessions

Economic Development

Leveraging Opportunity Zones and HB222

Kris Sturgill of Global Growth Advisors, LLC will facilitated this session through moderating an overview of Opportunity Zones and House Bill 222, and discussing how utilization of these incentives could be layered into an incentive package deal that would be attractive for businesses and their employees. Delegate Will Morefield, sponsor of HB222 attended at the session as did Cassie Resnick and Adam Northrup of Governor’s Northam’s Office to answer questions regarding the bill.

Challenges of Attracting Tech Companies

As COO and Co-Founder of Global Growth Advisors, Kris is experienced in the fields of site location consulting and analysis, incentive negotiations and financial management.

The session provided insight to economic development agencies and local government agencies on the challenges of attracting tech companies to the region. Having recently assisted BioIQ in relocating (See Release) , Kris shared experiences from the recruitment process and discussed the importance of partnerships with the state and county to develop some unprecedented, creative solutions.

For more information about Global Growth Advisors, LLC

Read more about their recent tech project,  BioIQ

Community Wellness

Community Wellness – Our Role

Casey Carringer is the Director of Clinical Engagement for Ballad Health within the Department of Population Health who facilitated this session.
What shapes the health and well-being of a region?  Research demonstrates that the answer lies with the intersection between educational success, economic success, and health.  The story starts upstream of the development of poor health with social determinants.  Though healthcare can shape health status through prevention and treatment, every sector of the community has a role to play in shaping health knowledge, perceptions, and outcomes for the next generation.  The session explored the role each of us can take to impact generational change for our region that will reduce the burden and cost of poor health and prepare a stronger workforce.

One Health – Connecting SWVA

The Center for Animal and Human Health (CAHA) introduced the concept and application of One Health to SWVA Economic Forum attendees.  One Health is a philosophy that recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. It is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes for people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.  Panel Members introduced practical applications of One Health that are currently being deployed in SWVA and greater Appalachia. Dr. Gil Patterson ,Program Manager and Principal Researcher for the Center for Animal and Human Health in Appalachia moderated the panel of  Casey Carringer of Ballad, and Laroy Brandt of LMU.


Technology in Appalachia

New Peoples Bank presented the breakout, “A Conversation with Rusty Justice, Dario Marquez and Wendy Marquez: Technology in Appalachia.” Moderated by Mary Trigiani, senior vice president of NPB, the session explored the vast potential for the region to participate in the global technology boom.
New Peoples Bank, headquartered in Honaker, Virginia, is a thriving community bank.

Business Tech Tips

How can technology help your business grow?

The panel will discussed  tips and applications to give  businesses a competitive edge.

Sandy Ratliff of Virginia Community Capital discussed the EVa system and provide guidance on registering and setup for success.

Craig Belcher of YourPCPro will demonstrated chatbots and how they can improve your customer interactions.

Bill Rose with Sykes-Intuit discussed Quickbooks and apps available to help become more efficient and less time consuming.


We were pleased to have a Go Virginia Panel: Rural Regions Lead the Way to Higher Paying Jobs discussion for the 2019 SWVA Economic Forum. This panel showcased some of the great work and projects Go Virginia Region One, Two, and Three are working on around Technology in an effort to scale and develop inter-regional efforts. This Panel was moderated by Erik Johnston with Mike Quillen of Region One, John Provo of Region Two, and Randy Lail of Region Three participating.

Wendy and Dario Marquez of Wize Solutions opened the Forum as the morning keynote speakers.

J. Wendy Marquez, is Founder and President of Wize Solutions, an IT company which focuses on creating sustainable high tech jobs in rural areas of Virginia through partnerships with local community colleges and national remote-based employers. Prior to forming Wize Solutions in 2017, Wendy served for over a decade as President of Onyx Media Group, a film production company which won several prestigious awards under her leadership.


Dario Marquez began his professional career as a member of the United States Secret Service, serving under the Administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter. In 1979, Mr. Marquez left the Secret Service to establish MVM, Inc. MVM’s initial focus was in security personnel management, security training, executive protection, criminal and civil investigations, technical security, and security risk assessments. Subsequently MVM expanded its services to include IT management, network administration, system security, system analysis and development of proprietary IT solutions tailored to the specific needs of its customers. Under Mr. Marquez’s leadership, MVM grew to become one of the largest companies in the country, currently employing over 2,400 security professionals worldwide. Mr. Marquez sold MVM in 2015.





The SWVA Economic Forum is pleased to announce this year’s keynote speaker:  Cheryl Cran!

Make plans to join us on Thursday, May 17 to enjoy Cheryl’s keynote presentation:  The Future of Work is Now! Are You Ready?

“Cheryl Cran is on a mission—she challenges leaders to strive for higher levels of ‘leadership mastery’ and provides tools, resources and processes to help leaders evolve, lead change and be ready for the Future of Work Now.”

Cheryl is an award-winning international consultant, best-selling author and highly sought-after speaker. She has worked in multiple industries, with hundreds of clients and thousands of leaders worldwide. Her research and thought leadership on the Future of Work and Change Leadership have been featured in CNBC, Huffington Post, Metro New York, Readers Digest, Financial Post, Fox, Entrepreneur magazine and more. Cheryl is the founder of Evolutionary Leadership Network, an online leadership training portal, and co-founder of Leadership Skills for Kids, a gamified app that teaches fundamental leadership skills.

Cheryl’s philosophy and her mission is to inspire and guide evolutionary change leaders to upgrade their operating systems to create the future workplace today. The future workplace Cheryl envisions is one of shared leadership, innovative collaboration and where everyone is consistently adding value for employees and customers.

Southwest Virginia Supports Entrepreneurs


We launch at the 2018 Southwest Virginia Economic Forum on May 17 with our first cohort of fundable businesses.

We have a great story to tell in Southwest Virginia. Tell the world about your Southwest Virginia Opportunity, and grow your business.

Download our flyer for more information.

Beyond Borders – Panel Discussion

Moderated by John Smolak, Economic Development Director of American Electric Power


Brad Hall, Vice President, American Electric Power, Eastern KY Region

Jina Belcher, CBO, Coalfield Development, Wayne, WV, Southern  WV

Jack Meadows, Director of Planning and Community Development, Siler City, NC

Michael Griffith, Security Federal Savings Bank, McMinnville, TN


“Great event and very enlightening”

“Can’t wait for next year – let’s do one in six months”

“Great forum!”

“Very engaging”

“I loved VEDP’s Stephen Moret and thought his insights into how Southwest fits into the overall picture of the state’s economic growth was great.”

“Opportunities abound!”

” Enjoyed the Fireside Chat with the delegates. Glad WCYB was there to broadcast.”


“I felt like I really could be an innovator!”

“More Flash Talks, please!”

“Our natural resources are some of our best”

“What a way to look at coal differently”

“Suggested alternative economic direction for coalfield communities was encouraging.”

“I’ve never heard someone talk about this topic in this way. Refreshing and unique.”

“Marjette’s presentation on ED efforts in the City of Lynchburg were very enlightening and provided some great points to take back home.”


2016 SWVA Economic Forum Brings Over 300 Participants Ready for Action

Over 300 participants attended the Southwest Virginia Economic Forum on May 12, 2016 at the UVA-Wise Convocation Center.  The purpose of the forum was to bring together the numerous groups from government, industry and education that are working on economic development initiatives in the region to find ways to move Southwest Virginia forward.  Participants with a passion for Southwest Virginia and its future were informed of ongoing initiatives and asked to provide input and new ideas.  Opportunities to engage in existing initiatives or newly created activities were also presented.

After a morning of inspiring speakers and panelists, participants separated into eight different breakout sessions for lively and productive conversation. Over the course of the afternoon, participants brainstormed ideas, prioritized and then added detail to key action items. After the sessions, small-group facilitators reported out on the top 3-4 ideas from each small group in a large group session.

Currently action teams are being formed and individuals will be provided an opportunity to register for those teams.   A follow up report out date of the action teams will be held in August at UVa-Wise.  Six action themes of focus will be created in the areas of Youth and Education, Health & Wellness, Entrepreneurship, Business Support and Attraction, Regional Marketing, Communication and Messaging, and Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“If we haven’t already felt a sense of urgency about moving things forward, about moving initiatives forward, working and partnering in ways we’ve never partnered before, now is the time.”


Mary Trigiani, owner of Spada, Inc., wrapped up the forum with some words of encouragement. In coming weeks, the region will hear more about the distressed economy and a lack of hope for the future, but Trigiani said Southwest Virginia would be candid about its weaknesses and swift to talk about its strengths.

“We are going to focus on our strengths and opportunities,” she said. “We have to own the story. We have to write the story and we have to tell it.”

Trigiani said the region should amplify the value of education to youth, plan for growth while deciding how big the region wants to be, understand what differentiates the region from other areas and tell its own story.

At the conclusion of the session, Henry said the group must decide what it wants to do next.

“Our goal is to continue to work with the action groups and to connect the right pieces together,” Henry said.

Working Together to Create and Connect

The second phase of a comprehensive regional economic development forum was held at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise on Wednesday, Aug. 24 to allow members of six action teams to share ways that Southwest Virginia can grow and prosper in challenging times.

The first forum was held 104 days ago as more than 300 stakeholders from the region spent a day discussing the region’s strengths and challenges. The action teams were created and tasked with coming up with targets to spur the region forward. The teams included Youth in Action, Health and Wellness, Entrepreneurship, Business Support and Attraction, Regional Promotions, and Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“One hundred and four days is not a very long time, yet, six action teams comprised of over 100 people have been working to identify opportunities, resources and strategies for moving the region forward,” Chancellor Donna P. Henry said in her welcome to those attending. “I believe one of the most significant outcomes of the May 12 forum is that the region is buzzing with excitement of what could be.”

“It is in all of our best interests to work together to move this region forward,” Henry said. “Our collective strength will help us maximize the impact we hope to make. “On behalf of the College, I pledge that The University of Virginia’s College at Wise will remain committed to working with you and partnering with you to reinvigorate the regional economy.

Henry urged those attending to use the college as a support system and as a way to connect people and resources. She established a steering team to help the process.

The forum featured a panel discussion of the region’s loyal and adaptable workforce, educational institutions, outdoor recreational opportunities that appeal to millennials, supportive government resources, and other attributes that appeal to companies.

The action teams held breakout sessions to further discuss the region’s assets and ways to use those positives to create a dynamic environment for economic development.