Go Virginia

A total of $700,000 in state funding has been awarded to three projects in the Roanoke and New River valleys designed to help rebuild a regional economy crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

The GO Virginia state board recently approved the grants, which will be supplemented by nearly $500,000 from other public and private sources, for initiatives proposed by the Roanoke Regional Partnership, the New River Health District and Virginia Tech.

Formed in 2016 by the General Assembly, GO Virginia provides funding for projects overseen by nine regional councils. Each region considers ideas from organizations, coalitions and entities to create high-wage jobs and revive an economy hampered by cutbacks to defense and other federal programs.

The program has since been temporarily retooled to address a more timely crisis.

In April, the GO Virginia state board allowed each region to seek up to $1 million under an expedited process to address the “fiscal distress across the entire Commonwealth because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A requirement for local matches to state funding was waived, and the mandated amount of total matches was reduced by half.

For Region 2 — a sprawling stretch of Virginia that includes the Roanoke and New River valleys, the Alleghany Highlands and the Lynchburg area — the following projects were approved by the state board:

  • A program run by the Roanoke Regional Partnership will assist companies with their immediate and long-term efforts to recover from the economic downturn, and to build future resilience. The targeted sectors are advanced manufacturing, food and beverage, technology and health care.
  • A team in the New River Valley will provide business owners with technical resources needed to operate in the pandemic environment. Working with the New River Health District and Virginia Department of Health, the team will help with on-site testing, public and employee relations, education, sanitization of workplaces and certification of best practices.
  • A task force from Virginia Tech will conduct COVID-19 testing for patients who currently have symptoms, and develop a wider testing system that will help determine when employees can safely re-enter the workforce. The project will also create a training program for workers in laboratories in Blacksburg and Roanoke.

Region 2 is also involved in a statewide initiative to address a critical shortage of personal protective equipment and provide related services to manufacturing companies.

Applications for new projects are being accepted through July 8 by Tech’s Office of Economic Development, which administers the GO Virginia program for the region.

Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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