Early last year, the Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority (LPRIFA) initiated Project Fuse to examine and define a telework employment strategy for its localities in Virginia’s Southwest, including the City of Norton and the Counties of Dickenson, Lee, Scott and Wise.
Funded by GO Virginia, the bipartisan, business-led initiative designed to change the way Virginia’s regions address economic development and workforce development, and the U.S Economic Development Administration, Project Fuse helped to recently create a playbook that the localities mentioned above can use to help their communities work together in making the region ready for employers on the cusp of change.
“The global pandemic accelerated more than a workplace shift and the remote work opportunity. It has opened a new door into diversifying our economy in Virginia’s Southwest. Given the quality of life we can offer and the support our economic development teams can provide to companies, we commissioned a look into how to match our assets to the opportunity.” – Duane Miller, Executive Director, LENOWISCO Planning District Commission
The study identified four opportunities for LPRIFA localities:
- Employers are offerings support for living remotely and using coworking spaces;
- Companies’ real estate needs have changed;
- Customer service via teleworkers is growing in sophistication and pay scales; and
- Companies are looking for partnerships with communities to find and retain quality employees as they compete in a tight labor market.
To take advantage of these opportunities, localities need to meet several conditions:
- Ubiquitous internet connectivity and reliable transportation networks;
- Downtown office buildings with meeting space;
- Affordable, diverse housing options in walkable areas; and
- An established network with academic partners
The playbook also emphasizes that localities need to develop their downtowns and deliver universal internet connectivity ahead of schedule as part of meeting the aforementioned conditions.