Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2004 

SJR 111: Southwest Virginia Economic Development Commission

August 2, 2004

The Southwest Virginia Economic Development Commission held its first meeting at Wytheville Community College.

Review of the Lacy Commission

Virginia Economic Development Partnership staff reviewed the role, actions, and impact of the 1985 Southwest Virginia Economic Development Commission (“Lacy Commission”). He recommended that the commission focus on workforce development, affordable access to and use of broadband technology, increasing entrepreneurship, the potential for retirement communities, and specialized economic development products that require unique facilities for their production. Complete remarks are available at the commission’s legislative website at http://dls.state.va.us/sjr111 .htm.

Delegate Joseph P. Johnson asked for clarification regarding the low level of educational attainment in Southwest Virginia and whether the problem is partially attributable to a lack of educational opportunities. The percentages of graduates, literacy levels, and higher education levels all lag behind those in metropolitan areas. Although tremendous strides have been made in higher education in Southwest Virginia, there has not been a sufficient effort to make workforce training reflective of employer needs. Instead, training provided by local workforce investment boards typically is client-based.

Review of the Rural Virginia Prosperity Commission

The Rural Virginia Prosperity Commission’s recommendation for creation of a rural center was passed by the General Assembly in 2004 (SB 407 and HB 1213), and the Virginia Capital Access Program was funded for an additional $500,000 in 2004. It is essential to attack isolation in rural communities, in part by expanding the wireless infrastructure to support cell phone access. The income disparity between rural and urban areas is growing exponentially and rural areas increasingly contain an aging, less-educated population due to the out-migration of better-educated young people. For purposes of the Tiered Incentive Program, Southwest Virginia counties are divided into three “tiers,” with Tier 1 containing the most economically stressed counties. Chairman Puckett noted that none of the Tier 1 counties has an interstate highway running through it.

Formation of Subcommittees

Commission members reviewed the proposed structure of subcommittees and identified potential members. Members of the audience also recommended potential subcommittee members. The chairman asked that any recommendations for subcommittee nominees not made at the meeting be given to Carl Mitchell, Virginia Economic Bridge.

Staff advised the commission that a legislative study guideline requires that legislation creating an interim study committee describe any subgroups the committee proposes to form. Because SJR 111, the legislation creating the Southwest Virginia Economic Development Commission, does not identify any subcommittees, the commission must request an exemption from that guideline from the Joint Rules Committee.

If the exemption is granted, the commission will proceed immediately with naming subcommittee members. Any initial subcommittee meetings likely would be held in October or November. Staff also briefed the commission on the meetings limitation (one per quarter) and the requirement that all commission meetings, and any subcommittee meetings, be noticed in accordance with Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. The commission will request an exemption from the meetings limitation in order to hold two meetings in the fourth quarter.

Designation of Special Advisors

The commission plans to appoint special advisors, who would provide guidance and information on specified issues. The commission requested that suggestions for special advisors be provided to it for consideration.

Meeting Schedule

Delegate Griffith suggested that, because 2005 is an election year, commission meetings should be held early in each quarter to the greatest extent possible. He recommended that meetings be scheduled for April, June, and August.

Chairman Puckett noted that commission member Sim Ewing had offered to host a commission meeting at the University of Virginia-Wise. Commission member Dr. F. David Wilkin offered to host a meeting at Virginia Highlands Community College.

The Hon. Phillip P. Puckett

For information, contact:
Ellen Bowyer
Division of Legislative Services


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2004 


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