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A new coalition between Pittsylvania County and the City of Danville seeks to join with the Danville Regional Foundation (DRF), the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) and industry leaders to create a "shared vision" of economic development. 

A resolution passed at Tuesday's meeting of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors approves the county to join the Danville-Pittsylvania Economic Development Alliance, a goal envisioned by the Economic Development Steering Committee and the Regional Economic Development Plan.

"One of the things we've talked about a lot is better coordination and accountability among all the various entities that do economic development work, and there's a lot of them in our community," said county administrator David Smitherman. "So we're trying to figure out how to coalesce all these various interests and get everyone focused on the same outcome."

The board voted to join the alliance so long as the proposed Leadership Council, individuals selected to head the alliance with voting power, be made up of seven members including the Danville City Manager, Pittsylvania County Administrator, CEO of DRF, the Executive Director of the IALR, president of the Danville-Pittsylvania Chamber of Commerce and two industry leaders.

This differs from the Steering Committee's recommendation that the council also include two regional/state economic development leaders.

According to Smitherman, the alliance itself would be made up of around 20 people and would be focused on achieving the goals laid out in the strategic plan presented to the board of supervisors and the city council earlier this year.

According to this study, Danville and Pittsylvania County together make up a "micropolitan" area of around 102,000 people.

President and CEO of DRF Clark Casteel spoke with the Star-Tribune about the strategies involved in the creation of the alliance. 

"When you think about economic development, it really is this holistic notion about how you're creating a place where people want to live, work and learn," Casteel said. "There are lots of things that contribute to a region's economic development."

Casteel spoke about the "affinity groups" which the alliance will work with and hold accountable to better the economic state of the region. These groups include business recruitment, retention and expansion, entrepreneurship, workforce development, education and tourism, as well as broader concepts such as the region's health, wellness and overall quality of life.

The city's education system in particular was identified as a regional weakness in the strategic plan.

"There's this interesting and important overlap between education and economic development," Casteel said, referring to how education quality and availability in a region affects workforce availability and quality of life.

The study identified several strengths in the region as well, listing overall good quality of life, low costs, workforce training programs and available infrastructure as competitive advantages.

According to city manager Ken Larking, a similar resolution to formally join the alliance will be brought before the city council in the coming weeks.

"This is one of the recommendations of the regional economic development plan," Larking said. "I've been involved in the process of developing the format of the Alliance and am prepared to recommend the same structure to our City Council."

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