How Higher-Ed Investments and Business Partnerships Could Transform Virginia

Todd Stottlemyer, Inova Center for Personalized Health

What will it take for the commonwealth of Virginia to once again be a preferred destination for skilled professionals?

That is one of the questions James Murray Jr., managing partner of Court Square Ventures, and Todd Stottlemyer, CEO of the Inova Center for Personalized Health, set out to explore in a recent op-ed for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The duo began by evaluating three vital questions:

  • Which investments promise the strongest ROI for Virginia and its taxpayers?
  • Which strategies will reverse the exodus of higher-paying jobs and well-educated workers to other states and enable Virginia to regain its standing as a top state for business known for talent?
  • What will enable Virginians to get better jobs, higher incomes and the personal breadth and resilience needed for lifelong success in a fast-changing society?

The authors examined a recent study by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. The report concluded Virginia’s public higher-education system contributed more than 167,000 jobs, $36 billion annually to the commonwealth’s economy and in 2016 created $2.3 billion in knowledge exports. This makes higher education one of Virginia’s largest economic contributors.

Three business-led initiatives — the “Growth4VA” campaign for higher education, the “GO Virginia” regional economic development push and the “Blueprint Virginia” strategic planning process by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce — found significant shortcomings and challenges, including:

  • Virginia is not effectively aligning education and training programs with the business needs and opportunities of the new economy
  • It’s not maximizing job potential and placement of graduates
  • Virginia is not doing enough research and convert innovations into new business startups and entrepreneurial opportunities

With economic and social change being faster than ever, now is the time to put forth the strategic investment, collaboration and reform via partnerships with businesses, colleges and governments to become a top state for talent and innovation. This plan includes citizens gaining the breadth of understanding, capacity for critical thinking and personal resilience.

To address the issues and achieve better partnerships and preparation, Virginia needs to provide a stabilized environment in which students and families know the full cost and probable ROI.

“Economic outcome agreements that embody these understandings for individual higher education institutions can help realize each school’s distinctive potential as an economic catalyst and ensure affordable access and a strong return for Virginia students and families,” Murray and Stottlemyer write.

These goals can be realized if elected leaders work across party lines for practical solutions and business communities are more unified and engaged combined with the commonwealth’s competitive advantage.


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