Back in 2010, VCC convened a group of upper-level decision makers and specialists in community planning and development to discuss a critical issue in the Commonwealth: What are the unmet needs in rural Virginia? Leaders from the USDA, Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the Tobacco Commission, and University of Virginia Tayloe Murphy Center discussed keys to success, best practices and models for success, and then began to formulate a new approach that would foster a new type of assistance to communities with obvious potential or readiness. DHCD provided a pool of funding to launch the program and the Pathfinders initiative was formally born.
VCC selected two communities to work with under the Pathfinders’ pilot: Onancock and Glade Springs. Over the course of the next two years, activities ranged from asset inventories to business planning. Four years later, measurable impact can be seen at both places, clearly demonstrating the positive influence of the Pathfinders’ engagement.
In Onancock, work on converting the 1920’s-era high school building into a community center is underway. A residential and commercial market study has outlined ways to invigorate the downtown. Last year, a new regional hospital broke ground, bringing jobs and tax revenues.
In Glade Spring, the revitalization has been celebrated as an example for other rural towns in Southwest Virginia. Private-public collaborations have resulted in an invigorated Main Street. Investors have arrived bringing jobs and capital improvements.
The Glade Spring story has been captured in a video, telling the story of this town’s revival.
One additional Pathfinder outcome is the development of VCC’s Community Investments & Impact group. VCC’s CI&I team consists of experts in economic development, housing, community engagement, and local investing. Teri Lovelace, Community Investments & Impact Manager, explains: “The Glade Spring and Onancock projects offer clear evidence that dedicated focus by community development and lending experts found at VCC can accelerate progress in a number of critical ways. We intend to use this model in other communities as we work across the commonwealth to strengthen Virginia’s economic foundation.”