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Special Report: Virginia Economic Development

structural changes. Gundersen said the reorganization —

the first of the VEDP since 2012 — was the result of 30-, 60- and 90-day action plans resulting from the listening tour. After the tour, Clemente said, the

group came up with a list of changes it wanted to see in the organization and presented them to Martin Briley, VEDP’s CEO. Briley stepped down on March 10 following a closed session of the board to discuss personnel issues. Gundersen took over as interim CEO the next day. Clemente, a commercial real estate

General Assembly members, including Republican Delegates Chris Jones of Suffolk and Kathy Byron of Lynchburg, called for a review last fall of state economic development incentives and the way they are administered.

AP Photos/Steve Helber

nimble and finding new ways to fund their operations so they can take the revenue and funnel it into marketing approaches and get in front of the business clientele from around the world.” What has emerged, he said — with

the full engagement of the board — is a more collaborative, streamlined approach that brings Virginia up to date with approaches being taken by other states. “We integrated services. By doing that, we were able to develop teams of profession- als around industry sectors critical to our economy. Before you had individual project managers in different divisions that were trying to work on projects,” he said. Gundersen said the restructuring plan was discussed with the board at its June

meeting, which Hudgins did not attend. Also, he said he sent board members a memo on July 14 with a plan of the reor- ganization that provided the conceptual changes of how the new organization would be put in place. All of the informa- tion was there, he continued, “but names were not in boxes at that time.” The staff reassignments were included in the orga- nizational chart that Gundersen sent out with his memos in August. The changes did not require a formal

board vote before taking effect as organi- zational management is the responsibility of the CEO. The VEDP board voted on Sept. 8 to approve amendments to its fiscal year 2017 operating plan, which includes about $23 million in funding, to reflect the

VEDP’s new structure puts more emphasis in attracting business prospects in industry clusters. Chesterfi eld County recently landed a major investment from bottled water company Niagara Bottling, an example of the Richmond region’s success with the food and beverage industry.

developer from McLean, conducted the tour while he was vice chairman with then- Chairman Chris Lumsden and Gundersen. Clemente said he chartered a plane at his own expense, meeting with local officials from the economic development commu- nity over three days in seven regions around the state. Armed with feedback on how best to

fine-tune the agency, the board wanted to move forward, he said. As for the timing of the reorganization without a new CEO in place, “If we had waited to hire somebody [as CEO], we would have had uncertainty as to how long it would take to make these changes,” Clemente said. “Then that person would have to

spend a considerable amount of time getting a feel for the entity,” he said. “So we’re talking a year and a half going with no changes after we had just been out on this tour. We felt we better have something going on that’s constructive.” Gundersen said, “It would have been

incredibly irresponsible for an organiza- tion … after having a listening tour in Janu- ary to sit on its hands and let one part of the moving process dictate the whole. The board did not do that.” Clemente said much of the feedback

on the tour came from officials in rural or lower-income regions who felt they weren’t getting enough attention. Clemente said rural regions often got left behind as VEDP tried to meet job and investment targets. “If you are focused just on metrics, then there are other parts of the state that go hurting. For example, the coal country, the [Shenandoah] Valley.” Barry Matherly, president and CEO

of the Greater Richmond Partnership, said the changes taking place at VEDP reflect concerns expressed by Central Virginia

64 OCTOBER 2016 Photo courtesy Niagara Bottling LLC

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