very best for our own community, of course, but we think it’s a blessing any time one of our partners in the region is successful, whether it’s the Lynchburg city core or Bedford or Amherst or Appomattox or Campbell County, because we all derive some indirect ben- efit from it.”

All for one, one for all This understanding has encouraged

regional players to work together more closely. In December 2015, the Lynch- burg Regional Business Alliance was formed. It combined two longstanding organizations: the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Region 2000 Business and Economic Alliance. “By aligning talent, financial

resources and volunteer board members within one organization, we are now all focused on a single mission of leading regional economic development,” says Megan A. Lucas, CEO of the new group. The new organization’s duties

include promoting the region, courting business projects, providing strategic direction, cultivating talent and research- ing the impact of new legislation and regulations. “Megan and her team can go out

and tell our story and deal with the larger regional issues, which frees up our local chambers to focus on supporting their members and helping them grow and succeed,” says Traci Blido, Bedford County’s economic development director. The group has developed a compre-

hensive economic development strategy and organized Virginia’s first regional connectivity study. It also spearheaded an effort to obtain $85 million from the Virginia Smart Scale funding process, formerly known as HB2, to upgrade the region’s roadways. “I would definitely say that the

theme and temperature here is the col- lective collaboration and cooperation that exists now to advance the region,” Lucas says. “Everyone here and all of our regional partners are working really, really hard, and it’s making a difference.”

On a roll In the first nine months of 2016,

the Lynchburg region saw 603 new jobs and $47 million in capital investments by

Megan A. Lucas, CEO of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, says it is focused on regional economic development.

new and existing businesses. One of the new arrivals is Standard

Insurance. In June, the company decided to put its operation center in Altavista, thanks in part to what Standard’s Speltz describes as “a strong cultural fit,” along with an incentive package that included a $320,000 Tobacco Commission grant. Another key factor was that the town had a vacant building once used as a call center that “is basically turnkey and will give us plenty of room to grow,” he says. Standard plans to invest nearly $3

million in the facility, which will process claims. The firm now has 30 employees in place and expects to hire another 200- plus benefit and claims analysts by 2020. Their median pay will be $17 to $19 per hour.

Not to be outdone, Lynchburg

landed a new insurer less than a month later. Pacific Life Insurance Co., based in Newport Beach, Calif., acquired Gen- worth Financial’s technology platform for new term-insurance business. Henrico County-based Genworth,

a Fortune 500 company, has operated in Lynchburg since 1955 but has seen major losses in recent years. In October, Genworth announced it is being sold to Beijing-based China Oceanwide Hold- ings Group for $2.7 billion.

Genworth, which will keep its head-

quarters in Henrico, will continue to have a customer service center in Lynchburg, which now has about 800 employees. “We expect that they will remain a strong company,” says Marjette Upshur, director of Lynchburg’s Department of Economic Development. Mike Shadler, Pacific Life’s vice presi-

dent of Lynchburg operations, explains that his company acquired Genworth’s term-life technology platform and the downtown Lynchburg building that houses it as well as a group of former Genworth employees who have the skills needed to launch the business. The deal, however, did not involve the transfer of existing Genworth policies and policy- holders. “We’re building from the ground up here,” says Shadler. Pacific Life has been known for its

focus on affluent consumers, he explains, while the acquired capabilities are designed to target a broader market. “Those are two very different sets of

customers and distribution models, and they require very different capabilities,” he says. “With this acquisition, we now have the capability, processes and people to go after a brand-new market space immedi- ately, without taking away any resources and focus on our existing business.”


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