We are pleased to introduce a new partner in economic development: the Virginia Community Economic Network (VCEN). VCEN was established in 2013 after a series of regional focus groups discussed ways to encourage more place-based and local economic development opportunities and efforts.
The statewide network will bring “unified voice to the field of place-based, community-focused, small business and entrepreneur oriented development” (vcen.org). Membership represents a diverse group of associations, individual organizations and professional practitioners, governmental agencies, lenders, foundations, and other supporters of place-based economic and community development.
Guided by several key principles, VCEN will foster:
VCEN will advance education to civic leaders, elected officials, and policy makers—helping them appreciate the significant impact of strong entrepreneurial ecosystems and how they can support these types of activities within their locality, region, or state.
VCC has played a key role in the launch of VCEN. We participated in the focus group conversations conducted in 2012 and early 2013. We also pressed for establishment of this nonprofit organization specifically addressing this important element of community development.
Further, VCC’s sponsorship of VCEN’s inception includes providing office space and fiscal support for the enterprise. Just last month, VCEN’s first Executive Director Conaway Haskins arrived for work in our Richmond office. Haskins has quickly made himself at home here and is focused on rapidly moving VCEN’s operations forward. He comes to VCEN from Virginia State University where he was Executive Director of Government and External Affairs, overseeing the university’s policy advocacy and economic development agendas. Prior to VSU, Haskins served as Project Director at the Council of Foundations in Arlington, as State Director for former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, and as Senior Program Officer for the Cameron Foundation in Petersburg. He also worked for the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC. A native of Lunenburg County, Haskins received his undergraduate degree from George Mason University and his master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Conaway noted: “I’m honored that the VCEN board chose me as their first Executive Director. This is truly a unique opportunity for me to work with the board and our partners to help move the needle on innovative community economic development efforts. I am very excited about VCEN’s future, and I look forward to collaborating with partners from every corner of Virginia.”
Reach out and say hello to Conaway and feel free to offer your own insights into the mission of VCEN. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.