By Ginny Gaylor
The appeal of small-town living can creep up on you—at least, that’s what several of Lynchburg’s up-and-coming women leaders experienced when they first came to the area for work. For these women, the people of Lynchburg not only welcomed them with open arms but also helped the three to thrive.
Georgia Harrington grew up in Warsaw, Virginia, and attended college at Virginia Commonwealth University. But life and her career took her to North Carolina, Maryland, and Tennessee. In 2020, she learned of an opportunity at Centra Health for the senior vice president and chief operating officer position, and she was excited to come back to her home state and use all the skills and talents she had collected over her career.
Plus, the move back to Virginia allowed Harrington and her husband to be closer to family. “We have two kids in Richmond and one child with two grandkids in Norfolk. My sisters and my mom are all in Richmond, so it is great to be back in this community,” she says.
As one of the largest employers in the Lynchburg area, Centra Health is a three-hospital healthcare system that includes several physician practices, making it practically the sole provider of health care in the area. Harrington’s days are full, but no two are alike. “Hospital administration is almost like a little city,” she says. “We have responsibilities for running the facilities, caring for patients, and giving employees the resources they need to do their jobs.”
Although Harrington has only been in Lynchburg for a few months, she can’t say enough about how welcoming the people have been. “I felt like I was at home in a short period of time,” she says. “I’ve moved to places where I’ve felt like an outsider for a long time, but that’s not the way it is here.”
Nicole Davidson, co-owner of Batter Bar, was raised in the Lynchburg area but moved away for several years after college, pursuing a career as a chef in Nashville. But with her family eight hours away, the competitive nature of Nashville’s food scene quickly lost its luster and Davidson longed to return to Virginia—particularly to be closer to her sister and best friend, Chelsea Doebler.
“I called my sister, and said, ‘I heard Lynchburg is growing; would you open a restaurant with me if I moved back?’ And she said, ‘absolutely not.’” Doebler had a new baby and wanted time to spend time with her. But after a month passed, Doebler began to change her mind. The sisters began brainstorming, and Batter Bar was born from their love of brunch. Davidson returned to Lynchburg to make their vision a reality.
“Lynchburg is bigger than just downtown Lynchburg, and some people forget that, in a way,” she says. “Growing up around here, it’s really cool to see the growth that has happened.”
Batter Bar began as a food truck in November 2019 but expanded to a storefront in just a few short months. “It happened faster than we thought. Lynchburg has been super supportive of us,” Davidson says.
And Davidson is equally enthusiastic about her hometown. “For a young entrepreneur looking for somewhere to grow, where it’s reasonable to own your own business, Lynchburg is great for that,” she says. “It has a good cost of living, and the more small businesses that are here is great for everybody because it’s more reasons for people to move here and stay here.”
Quality of life
Rosanna Chaidez moved to Lynchburg in 2016, after accepting the position of president and CEO of NB Handy, a Lynchburg-based distributor for commercial roofing and machinery products. Chaidez had built a career in business, filling various business roles in systems, supply chain and operations, and sales and marketing. Before joining NB Handy, she worked for a flooring distributor. “I went from the floor to the roof,” she laughs. “I’ve covered many building material products.”
Chaidez appreciates the slower pace that Lynchburg offers its residents. But she’s quick to add that it’s only a slower pace if you want it to be. And when she’s ready to travel, whether for work or fun, Lynchburg’s central location makes it effortless. “I can easily go to D.C., Raleigh or Charlotte—I find it very convenient,” she says.
Chaidez has been particularly impressed with the way the Office of Economic Development and the Lynchburg Business Alliance assists newcomers in the area. “They make it easy to find the right connections and friends,” she says. “This is especially helpful for those of us who move to this area for jobs.”
Chaidez had never lived in Virginia before, previously calling Chicago and then Annapolis, Maryland, home. But she and her husband quickly grew to love the area and appreciate the surrounding hiking and outdoor activities—especially the view from the top of the 2.6-mile Sharp Top Trail. “We have met wonderful people that have become our friends, and we love the convenience of a smaller town and the quality of life it offers.”
Ginny Gaylor is a writer and editor based in Greensboro, North Carolina. She has more than 20 years of experience writing on a variety of topics, from home furnishings to health care, hospitality to lifestyle.