Even with continual changes posed by the pandemic, the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance had 730 active members in 2021 and raised more than $1.6 million for economic development initiatives.
It supported six regional expansions and added 175 jobs and $68 million in capital investment last year.
On Wednesday, Alliance members came together for its annual meeting to celebrate those wins plus look forward to what’s to come in 2022.
Denise Woernle, 2021 Alliance chair, spoke about the past year and said despite the lingering effects of COVID-19, the Alliance remained committed to seeing an economic growth and pursuing that growth through its program of work.
The Alliance hosted more than 65 opportunities where members connected and learned valuable information to help their organizations, and it hosted two new business development opportunities: Diversity Equity and Inclusion Summit, and the Minority Business Expo, which showcased 26 businesses.
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“We brought you top-notch local, state and national speakers on relevant topics aimed at helping you navigate the complex and rapidly changing business climate we find ourselves in,” she said.
Woernle said the Alliance also continued to brand the region nationally by engaging more than 100 global site selectors and business development specialists so the area can grow in jobs and capital investment.
“We raised more than $1.6 million for industrial site development and the redevelopment plan for the Central Virginia Training Center and we continued our strong public policy work to advocate for pro-business policies on the local, state and federal levels,” she said.
Central Virginia Training Center is a now-defunct state-owned complex on 300 acres in Madison Heights. It formerly served residents with disabilities but its last patient was relocated in spring 2020.
Luke Towles, incoming chair for 2022, said the Alliance has created a new three-year strategic plan to continue enhancing the business climate, cultivating talent and generating jobs and investment in the region.
Glenn Llopis, president of GLLP — a workforce development and business strategy consulting firm — spoke to members about what leadership looks like during the massive disruption of the pandemic.
“Each and every one of you presents and represents the roots of this city, the surrounding county, businesses. Everybody here needs to unleash one another,” he said. “We’re opportunity experts. That’s what we’re trying to be. We’re trying to bring in new members. We’re trying to generate economic growth. The truth is we are rebuilding our community together.”
He urged the business community to get to know each other again, stating who we are in 2022 is different than who and what we were pre-pandemic.
“We have a tendency to see people in a very static way. But we don’t pay attention to how people actually evolve. Do we know how all this radical change is impacting each and every one of us, our families, our lives?” he said.
He said businesses need to be able to see opportunities in everything, do a better job of anticipating the unexpected, and help unleash each other’s passionate pursuits.
“We all got stuck in the traps of standardization,” he said. “We all got caught on the treadmill. We’ve been pushed out of it. And now we have to reinvent the wheel all over again. And we can’t do that alone anymore. Which means what we need to live with [is] an entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurship just isn’t about business anymore. It’s a way of life.”
Every year at the annual meeting, the Alliance presents three awards to deserving community members.
This year, Fred Armstrong was the recipient of the 2021 F.M. “Dink” Cloyd Award, presented each year to a member who has rendered outstanding voluntary service to the organization. Armstrong recently retired from Wiley|Wilson after 32 years with the firm. He has served as CEO since 2000 and chairman of the board since 2004. Armstrong began his professional career in Richmond with the Virginia Department of Transportation. He moved to Lynchburg in 1981 to join Babcock & Wilcox on Old Forest Road working on the steam supply components of commercial nuclear power plants. Armstrong joined Wiley|Wilson in 1989 as a project engineer in their civil department.
Bill Bodine was the recipient of the 2021 George Taylor Stewart Award, which is known for impactful service to the region.
Bodine has served as president and CEO of the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation for the past seven years, but most of his career was spent in health care management. He is a distinguished alumnus of Leadership Lynchburg and has served on the boards and volunteer corps of many organizations including the Alliance Ambassadors, the Academy Center of the Arts, Virginians for the Arts, Riverviews Artspace and as president of the University of Lynchburg Alumni Board.
Kathleen Davis received the Young Professional to Watch Award for her work at University of Lynchburg in her role as director of engagement marketing. Davis started her design career at The Weather Channel two days after graduating from the University of Alabama. After 10 years of working for brands including The Home Depot, Yamaha Motorsports and Yamaha Watercraft, Kathleen switched to higher education.