Five economically distressed regions of Virginia are being given grants to stimulate job growth. Maurice Jones, Virginia's secretary of commerce, traveled to the Northern Neck Friday to personally hand over a $70,000 check for a new center to help bring technology jobs back to the U.S.
Virginia's employment rates are breaking state records but Secretary Jones warned about two risks.
“We still are overly dependent on the government sector for our engine of growth. The Defense Department is the largest employer by far in the state. It doubles the second largest employer, which by the way is Wal-Mart."
Grants to the rural regions of the state will give job growth a badly-needed boost. Jones said the Northern Neck received the largest grant to use for its Center for Innovation and Development because of its team, innovation and prospects for transforming the region.
“The Northern Neck is an important piece of the Commonwealth. It is often a piece that you don't hear talked about as often as others. It's a place with great assets. We want to try to make strategic investments to help the folks of the Northern Neck take those assets to the next level.”
Stephanie Chaufournier, who runs the Center says software developers can live in the rural communities of the Northern Neck and telecommute, instead of moving or making grueling commutes to the city.
“There are a lot of kids who have left because the jobs were not here. So we want to bring those kids back to the area. So we're going to be bringing the jobs here and then the people will be drawn to the jobs.”
The Center is adjacent to the workforce campus of Rappahannock Community College.
Other Virginia regions awarded grants include: New River Valley Planning District, the Roanoke Regional Partnership, the West Piedmont Planning District Commission, and Northern Shenandoah Valley Collaborative.