The City of Lynchburg, Virginia, is one of the best small cities in the country. Driven by innovative businesses and forward-thinking organizations, Lynchburg is a community that values history, natural beauty and healthy, inclusive neighborhoods. Every resident has the opportunity to thrive in the City of Lynchburg.
To be the best small city in America, the City of Lynchburg requires a deliberate strategy for competing for new investment and talent. For the last year, the Office of Economic Development and Tourism has engaged residents, business executives, community leaders and elected officials to create a five-year comprehensive plan to build tomorrow’s Lynchburg and ensure that all residents have the opportunity to thrive.
The plan is built on five key priorities: growing local businesses, engaging anchor institutions, filling workforce pipelines, enhancing quality of place, and communicating Lynchburg’s story to the world.
For more information:
Assistant Director, Economic Development & Tourism
City of Lynchburg
Steering Committee Members
- Anthony Andrews, Twenty23
- Rosana Chaidez, N.B. Handy
- Katie Conner, Virginia Tourism Corporation
- Ben Copeland, Lynchburg City Schools
- Kenny Craig, Liberty University
- Michael Elliott, Centra Health
- Jeff Fedorko, Riverside Runners
- Wes Fugate, Randolph College
- Rex Geveden, BWX Technologies, Inc.
- Jamie Glass, Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance
- Kenneth Hancock, U.S. Pipe
- Todd Irby, Innovative Wireless Technologies
- Elizabeth Narehood, Central Virginia Community College
- Pat Price, Churches for Urban Ministry
- Mort Sajadian, Amazement Square
- Sally Selden, University of Lynchburg
- Mike Shadler, Pacific Life
- Dustin Slightham, 434 Marketing
- Jeff Thompson, C.B. Fleet, A Prestige Brands Company
A blueprint for opportunity is devised by and for the community it serves. While data analysis is important to determining trends, assets and challenges, input from local businesses and employees gives this analysis much-needed context. By providing a platform for community members to share their expertise and new ideas, we hope to generate a universal understanding of economic opportunity among public, private, and governmental partners. This process of convening local stakeholders is reflective of our broader mission to build meaningful relationships between industry players, service providers and anchor institutions. Our conversations with the following groups represent the beginning of a long-term effort to foster community engagement.
To arrive at a firm understanding of the City’s many assets and challenges, we at the City of Lynchburg hosted a series of roundtable discussions on a detailed list of topics. Over the course of the interview process, we gave equal voice to public stakeholders, private partners and community service providers. To fortify our efforts, we enlisted Steven Pedigo, a nationally recognized economic development strategy consultant who has advised and collaborated with more than 50 cities, universities, developers, nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies to build more creative, innovative and inclusive communities. Our efforts also tapped into the expertise of the following key players:
- Steering Committee. The steering committee consisted of Economic Development Authority (EDA) members, local businesses, major employers, universities and entrepreneurs. The group met monthly to determine the overall direction of the project and offer advice on benchmarks, research conclusions, cluster strengths, target industries, strategy, vision and implementation. As champions of the City’s economic development strategy, these members will spearhead its execution alongside the Office of Economic Development and Tourism and other City departments.
- City Council and the Economic Development Authority. Conversations with the Lynchburg City Council helped to define the factors influencing today’s economic development efforts. The Council also weighed in on the City of Lynchburg’s unique challenges as an independent city and helped identify various benchmarks. Moving forward, these leaders will continue to provide input for our economic development strategy and help identify resources needed to support the plan. As elected and appointed community members, they serve as a direct line between the Lynchburg Office of Economic Development and Tourism and the public.
- Startup and Entrepreneurship. We met with local entrepreneurs, small business support organizations and founders of local businesses to consider what makes the City of Lynchburg a unique environment for entrepreneurship. In addition to identifying certain action steps, our conversation pinpointed target clusters that have demonstrated the greatest need for talent or capital.
- Industry. Our conversation with Lynchburg’s leading employers focused on the factors influencing development across industry sectors. In addition to discussing the City’s advantages, including its skilled workforce and engaged business community, we addressed various challenges such as a lack of transportation or airport connectivity, insufficient talent pipelines and real estate constraints.
- Brain Gain. We met with workforce development professionals, K-12 educators, local employers and members of the creative class to discuss what makes City of Lynchburg an appealing place to live and work. Our conversation centered on methods of talent attraction and retention, particularly with regard to creating “boomerang” citizens (those who return to the city where they once lived). Additionally, we focused on ways to improve Lynchburg’s skills pipeline by connecting local businesses to workforce development opportunities.
- Tourism and Placemaking. Our tourism and placemaking session convened tourism officials, Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) representatives, restaurant owners, historical site operators, recreation companies and downtown promoters. Together, they discussed how to leverage Lynchburg’s “quality of place” assets to drive economic development. Participants also addressed obstacles to making Lynchburg an ideal destination for tourists.
- Neighborhoods and Urban Renewal. Our conversation on neighborhoods and urban renewal convened local real estate professionals, community developers and planners, and community advocates. Their discussion recognized City of Lynchburg as a collection of neighborhoods that requires a strategy for inclusive prosperity, which prioritizes the needs of all citizens.
The following values provide a foundation for our strategy and inform the actions and investments needed to support the City of Lynchburg’s inclusive and prosperous future.
- Honor Legacy and Encourage Innovation. Lynchburg’s legacy as a “maker-community” sits at the heart of the City’s ethos. A thriving maker community honors its history, but looks to the future and encourages a culture of constant innovation and improvement.
- Focus on Family-Supporting Jobs. The quality of jobs we create today will impact the prosperity of Lynchburg citizens for generations to come, setting a path for individual self-actualization and family well-being.
- Maximize Quality of Place. We value development efforts that prioritize quality of place and leverage the community’s cultural and physical assets.
- Repurpose and Reuse. As Jane Jacobs once wrote, “New ideas require old spaces.” We value and want to protect the character and authenticity of the City of Lynchburg’s industrial past, while re-envisioning spaces for new and innovative uses.
- Maximize Urban Potential in a Rural Community. As an urban center in a rural region, the City of Lynchburg is rich with competitive advantages and potential, though we recognize its unique land use and infrastructure challenges.
- Support Continuous Upskilling. The City of Lynchburg’s competitive advantage is its diversity of skills, ideas and talents. In order for Lynchburg to thrive in the future, the City must encourage the ongoing upskilling and training of its workforce and ensure that all citizens have the tools to participate in our economy.
- Ensure Inclusive Prosperity. Today’s urban challenges require a new strategy centered on inclusive prosperity. For too long, economic development and equity have been seen as separate entities. To encourage sustainable growth in the City of Lynchburg, these priorities can no longer be mutually exclusive. Our strategy ensures that equity and inclusion are reflected in all city building efforts.
- Embrace Engagement. We are stronger together when it comes to solving our City’s challenges. We are committed to the ongoing engagement of businesses, anchor institutions, community organizations, citizens and elected officials to tackle our toughest economic issues. Our mission relies on key resources such as the National Citizen Survey, industry cluster roundtables, listening sessions with elected officials and expertise of our economic development Steering Committee.
The Steering Committee and the City of Lynchburg have outlined seven guiding principles to inform the priorities and objectives of Lynchburg’s economic development strategy. These principles will help shape the City’s economic development approach to future investment, resource deployment, and strategy implementation.
Industry Cluster-Driven. Adopt a data-informed, traded sector cluster approach, which will guide the following strategy goals, objectives and actions.
- Grow sectors that provide opportunities for a variety of specializations and competitive advantages, a range of talent and skill levels, and continued business development.
- Prioritize sectors that support family-wage job creation—a key element of inclusive prosperity.
- Focus on the following clusters: Metals and Machinery Manufacturing and Conveyor Systems and Moving Equipment, Nuclear Technology, Advertising and Design, and Architecture and Engineering Services.
Prioritize Existing Businesses. Focus on business expansion and retention, which is a more efficient and effective means of growing the local economic base and attracting additional investment.
- Allocate staff and resources for strengthening relationships with existing Lynchburg companies.
- Prioritize company attraction efforts to support industry cluster growth, including the further development of the supply chain.
- Convene business leaders by cluster to develop relationships and expertise among City of Lynchburg economic development staff regarding competitive advantages and challenges.
Focus on Entrepreneurship and Grow Your Own. Develop a startup ecosystem for scalable traded businesses, especially those within the advertising, architecture, design, and engineering clusters.
- Understand that the needs of scalable export businesses are different from those of local small businesses.
- Celebrate the successes of Lynchburg entrepreneurs, helping to promote a culture and brand for Lynchburg as an emerging startup hub.
- Extend support for businesses beyond the downtown core, ensuring access to entrepreneurship for all residents and neighborhoods.
Leverage and Engage Anchor Institutions. Recognize Lynchburg’s anchor institutions—universities, health care institutions and large-scale employers—as critical drivers of the City’s economic development efforts.
- Build strategies that utilize the core capabilities, size and scale of anchor institutions to accelerate economic progress and inclusive prosperity.
- Engage and develop partnerships and new collaborations among anchors to further enhance innovation and the commercialization of new products and services, while creating accessible jobs for local residents.
- Position Lynchburg as a learning laboratory where universities, institutions, businesses, entrepreneurs and talent come together to exchange ideas and build community.
Match and Build Skills with Opportunities. Center the City of Lynchburg’s economic and workforce development efforts on creating and filling family-wage jobs and in-demand skills in key growth industries.
- Focus on developing workforce pipelines in partnership with local workforce development and education partners, with an emphasis on Lynchburg’s target industry clusters.
- Facilitate mutually beneficial and meaningful relationships between education partners, city institutions, and major employers.
A Commitment to Engagement and Results-Oriented Partnerships. Commit to long-term, productive partnerships, which are strengths of Lynchburg’s economic development efforts.
- Recognize that inclusive engagement is ongoing and multi-faceted, involving stakeholders—businesses, anchor institutions, community organizations, citizens and elected officials—at all levels.
- Ensure the City of Lynchburg and its economic development priorities are well-represented by the work of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance.
- Build and maintain a feedback loop with Lynchburg residents to address changing priorities and needs for economic development.
Promote and Develop Place. Embrace and promote the City of Lynchburg’s distinct cultural heritage and natural assets, which make it a desirable destination for talent.
- Promote easy access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, James River, cultural sites and other recreational and tourism amenities that draw visitors from within and outside the region.
- Recognize the City of Lynchburg as a collection of neighborhoods, each with its own identity, assets and challenges.
- Highlight Downtown Lynchburg as a walkable, vibrant urban core, a desirable location for many creative and innovative companies, and an asset for the entire region.
- Educate city stakeholders that a thriving, affordable destination with rich amenities such as recreation, retail, quality schools, parks, restaurants and entertainment is essential for talent attraction and retention.
GOAL 1: Expand and support Lynchburg’s existing company foundation.
In addition to traditional and advanced manufacturing industries, Lynchburg is home to a number of
knowledge-based industries, which are key drivers of economic growth. As the City’s workforce becomes
more creative, legacy manufacturing industries can use innovation to adapt to global economic shifts. By
integrating technology into its existing businesses, Lynchburg’s manufacturing cluster may become more
automated and attract a more skilled workforce, allowing manufacturing to remain an essential
component of the City’s industrial fabric. With a sustained focus on education and skills training,
Lynchburg’s citizens will gain both technological and manufacturing skills to fill existing and future jobs.
This is essential for equitable economic development efforts. Alternatively, the City can recruit
companies that meet the industry’s changing requirements.
- 1.1: Become industry cluster experts.
- 1.2: Implement a business expansion and support program.
- 1.3: Strategically market and promote industry clusters to grow supply chains.
- 1.4: Develop the real estate, land, infrastructure, and incentive tools to support business expansion.
- 1.5: Nurture a startup ecosystem and position the City of Lynchburg as an entrepreneurial hub.
GOAL 2: Engage and collaborate with city anchor institutions.
To achieve more inclusive growth, the City of Lynchburg must engage and collaborate with local anchor institutions (organizations that quite literally anchor urban centers). As some of the largest employers in their communities, anchors wield enormous influence on a city’s economic development, from employing local residents to providing workforce pipelines for low-income residents to driving development in downtown areas. In the City of Lynchburg, some of the most prominent anchors include academic institutions such as Liberty University, Central Virginia Community College, Randolph College and the University of Lynchburg; healthcare institutions, such as Centra Health; and a number of tourism assets. By engaging these organizations in economic development, the City can ensure that all residents reap the benefits of Lynchburg’s financial growth.
- 2.1: Educate Lynchburg’s anchor institutions on the role of anchors in economic and
- 2.2: Develop an anchor institution assessment / goal-setting tool and framework.
- 2.3: Convene local anchors to develop an “anchor collaborative” with clear economic
and community development goals.
- 2.4: Position Lynchburg as an “Applied Community Lab” that supports ongoing learning.
- 2.5: Utilize anchors to drive tourism development.
GOAL 3: Support talent and in-demand skill development for Lynchburg’s target industry
A diverse, highly-skilled workforce is an important asset for any urban community. In order to weather
the inevitable booms and busts of the modern economy, the City of Lynchburg must provide skills
training and pathways to job opportunities within the City’s target industry clusters. While this will not
eliminate income stratification or workforce skills gaps, it will allow individual residents to achieve their
full economic potential, thereby improving the City’s fiscal growth and stability.
- 3.1: Foster ongoing skill development for the City of Lynchburg’s export sectors.
- 3.2: Develop a system of work-based learning and training initiatives for Lynchburg’s K-12
- 3.3: Launch a Lynchburg Talent Initiative.
GOAL 4: Create, embrace and promote community.
Quality of place has a major influence on where talent decides to locate. Communities that attract the
most talented, highly skilled residents tend to have a strong local identity characterized by a diversity of
cultural assets. Increasingly, cities with a firm “placemaking” strategy—one that leverages their strengths
to maximize local health, happiness and well-being—are seeing higher levels of investment and
development. With its fair share of historical and heritage sites, Lynchburg has an opportunity to position
itself as a must-see destination for tourists. By developing a placemaking strategy that centers on these
local assets, the City can drive additional economic development.
- 4.1: Adopt a placemaking strategy for Lynchburg’s downtown core and neighborhoods.
- 4.2: Create strategies for “tourism experiences” to drive visitor and tourism growth.
- 4.3: Improve Lynchburg’s airport connectivity.
Goal 5: Tell the City of Lynchburg’s story.
Economic development is only as powerful as the story it tells. For cities to be successful in their efforts
to attract new talent and companies, they must craft a compelling narrative that signifies who they are and
communicates a strong sense of culture and community. By telling a story that highlights their local
assets, cities can distinguish themselves from their neighbors and re-shape their public brand. These
narratives also help to build a sense of civic pride, making residents feel more confident in their
community and its leaders.
- 5.1: Develop a competitive identity for Lynchburg 5.1 and tell that story.