$1.5 million to attract businesses, jobs, families to New River Valley

Onward NRV is one step closer to the region's 5-year goal

BLACKSBURG, Va. – A nonprofit raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to attract new businesses, jobs and families to the New River Valley.

Onward NRV is a nonprofit devoted to promoting economic development in the region. The group just exceeded its $1.5 million fundraising goal. Now, leaders say they are one step closer to their five-year goal. 

"It's very gratifying," said Charlie Jewell, the executive director of Onward NRV. "But, we also know this is just the beginning, as well."

By 2023, Onward NRV wants to create nearly 3,500 jobs and bring in $84 million in consumer spending. That vision includes attracting industries, such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, food processing and agriculture and unmanned systems.

"We want professionals within those industries to be thinking about the NRV when they're thinking about where they want to live and work," Jewell said.

"I think that's how you bring smart, young people to a town and we'd like to keep it that way here," said Jennie Hamm, a Blacksburg resident.

Blacksburg business owners and residents agree there has been growth in the area, but the NRV needs more opportunities.

"We see an evolution coming. It's an exciting time in the NRV," said Michelle Raub, who opened Sugar Magnolia in downtown Blacksburg last summer. "There's so much that's in need of coming and there's so much that's here."

Onward NRV would like to encourage businesses and locals to work together to grow the region. This spring, Onward NRV plans to host summits with different industries and plans to reach out to graduates of local universities to let them know how the NRV has grown. The nonprofit is also going to reach out to existing companies in the area.

"Activity breeds activity. So, we want to see that vibrancy," Raub said.

Over the years, Jewell says the focus of economic development has shifted from companies to people. He says people have knowledge, ideas and the ability to innovate. Therefore, having talented professionals living in thriving communities will make businesses want to move to the region.

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