University launches the Economic Development Studio @ Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 20, 2006 – Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development and the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies are partnering with state and local governments to study “farmshoring” possibilities for rural areas in Virginia.

The Economic Development Studio @ Virginia Tech will provide the first comprehensive analysis in the commonwealth of the opportunities and barriers regarding the farmshoring phenomenon — the outsourcing of jobs or contracts to areas of the country with a lower cost of doing business.

Heike Mayer, assistant professor of urban and regional planning, and John Provo, senior economic development specialist with the Office of Economic Development, along with a class of graduate students in urban and regional planning, will work this fall with state, regional, and local partners to conduct a market analysis for Virginia localities in domestic outsourcing or farmshoring. The project provides a new model for university outreach and learning, engaging Virginia Tech faculty and students at the Blacksburg campus and National Capital Region campus in work with communities on a statewide project.

While states like Virginia experience tremendous economic disparities between their rural and urban jurisdictions, there now appear to be unprecedented prospects for rural jurisdictions to capture jobs that are leaving high-cost, urban areas. One example is the recent decision by two firms to locate 750 high-paying information and communications technology jobs in Lebanon, deep in rural Southwest Virginia.

In addition to possibly helping rural communities secure jobs and build tax bases, farmshoring may provide urban communities with a new tool for addressing congestion and growth management issues. At the same time, this deconcentration can actually benefit firms, increasing the ability of companies to focus on their core competencies. As a result, both urban and rural communities may become more competitive and the state may retain jobs that would have gone elsewhere.

Through The Economic Development Studio @ Virginia Tech, faculty and graduate students will examine this potential to link urban and rural communities. The project incorporates a graduate studio class that requires a ‘real-world’ project conducted jointly in Blacksburg and Alexandria. Among the community and agency partners participating in the project are the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, the cities of Alexandria, Galax and Harrisonburg, and Arlington, Carroll, Loudon, and Smyth counties.