GO Virginia Region 8 announced today that funding for the Rockbridge Area Advanced Manufacturing Program (RAAMP) submitted in the second round of project grants to the GO Virginia State Board has been approved. RAAMP is a 40-week training program for welders at Byers Technical Institute, a new technical training center in Rockbridge County. The program is designed to meet the critical shortage of skilled welders in the region. In January 2018 alone, four companies reported 36 open welding positions. The $200,000 needed to implement RAAMP will include a mix of GO Virginia funds and matching public/private investments from the Rockbridge County Economic Development Authority, the City of Buena Vista, and Byers, Inc.
The GO Virginia funding will allow Byers Technical Institute to hire additional instructors and equipment in order to serve more students. The project has received support from a wide range of partners including private industry, economic and workforce professionals, K-12 education, and three local governments, as an effective way to address industry needs and to create higher paying jobs within the region.
“Rockbridge County is so fortunate to have innovative thinkers like the Byers brothers. They saw a workforce need, and rather than wait for someone else to fix it, they decided to make the change they envisioned. We are happy that, through GO Virginia, Rockbridge County, along with Buena Vista, will be able to play a small part in helping grow this amazing, homegrown program which will benefit so many individuals, including our young workers, as well as local and regional businesses,” said Rockbridge County Board of Supervisor Chair David Hinty.
“RAAMP will provide a pipeline of skilled welders for manufacturing companies in Region 8. More welders will allow area industries to reduce the cost of outsourcing services and increase productivity. Additionally, expanding educational opportunities and the availability of a skilled workforce will help attract other industries to this rural area of Virginia,” said George Pace, chair of the Region 8 Council.
Light manufacturing was identified in the Region 8 GO Virginia Growth and Diversification Plan as one of five target industry sectors anticipating job growth over the next five years. Other job growth industries are financial and business services, healthcare, information technology/communications, and transportation and logistics, expected to show job growth in the next five years. These jobs are anticipated to have an average wage of $41,000 or higher.
RAAMP is a multi-partner example of how GO Virginia projects can strive to facilitate needed site development, workforce recruitment, and training opportunities in target industry sectors through joint economic development activities. Approximately $1M in implementation funding is available to the region for projects like RAAMP that align with Region 8 Council’s Economic Growth and Diversification Plan. Projects must be collaborative, involving two or more localities and private sector partners, and be focused on growing and diversifying the region’s economy to complement existing industry clusters as outlined in the Council’s plan.
GO Virginia Region 8 covers a large area from Winchester to Lexington and includes ten counties and six cities in the Shenandoah Valley, with a combined population of 525,000. The 28-member council that oversees the GO Virginia program is made up of representatives from small and large business, higher and k-12 education, elected officials, and economic and workforce development organizations.
For more information on GO Virginia, visit online at Shenandoah Valley Partnership or Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
About GO Virginia: The Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia) is a voluntary, business-led, bipartisan initiative that was formed to foster private-sector growth and diversification across nine economic development regions in the Commonwealth of Virginia. State financial incentives designated for regional projects that encourage collaboration between private sector companies, workforce, education, and government are administered by the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Board.