SVP to have new executive director

Carrie Chenery

The Shenandoah Valley Partnership executive committee announced its new executive director for the organization Wednesday.

Carrie Hileman Chenery was named the new executive director and will be leaving her position as assistant secretary of agriculture and forestry of Virginia for her new post Feb.28.

Prior to her work in the governor’s office, Chenery served as manager of legislation and policy at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and as director of government affairs for the Richmond-based law firm Williams Mullen.

Chenery said she is “ready to hit the ground running for the valley.”

“The valley is really well respected and renowned for its collaboration because it has a lot of assets, like strong local leadership,” Chenery said. “I think this is a really unique opportunity and exciting time to be a part of this.”

The partnership is a public-private economic development organization serving Augusta, Bath, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham and Shenandoah counties by providing business recruitment services and economic data for those counties.

Greg Godsey, chair of the partnership, said the organization was looking for a very specific set of qualities when searching for a new director, after the old director Dennis Burnett, died unexpectedly last October.

“We were looking for people who had a minimum of five years economic development experience, somebody with energy and enthusiasm, with skills in marketing, finance, budgeting and investor relations,” Godsey said.

The partnership acts as a way to keep costs low for economic development in participating counties, as well as a point of contact for companies interested in relocating to the valley, Godsey said.

“We provide resources for the whole region, like collecting data and doing research and providing access to data bases that would be cost prohibitive for one individual locality,” Godsey said.

Godsey added, “All the economic prospects interested in the region come through the partnership … we are the clearinghouse for economic development prospects for the state. If a county were to go out and do it on its own, they probably wouldn’t find as many prospects.”

Chenery said she believes her previous experience will help with spearheading the region’s economic development.

“I think the positions I have held are going to be really helpful for the area,” Chenery said. “I’ve seen things from a lot of different perspectives and I have worked a number different projects, so I understand the diverse mix of industry in the valley, the things existing businesses need to thrive and what can attract new businesses.”

Godsey said Chenery brings with her a wide breadth of economic development experience.

“She really cut her teeth at the VEDP, so she got a broad perspective of economic development in that position,” Godsey said. “She can cover all facets of the economic spectrum, from biotech to advanced manufacturing to food processing to warehousing.”

Despite being 28 years of age, Godsey said Chenery has used her short time in the economic development field well.

“Her experience and her connections and her collaboration skills with people overcome her youth,” Godsey said. “She’s built a very good base and knows all the players and has worked with people across the state on economic development … she’s done very well in a short amount of time.”

Chenery said her age is not an issue for the position.

“I bring with me a great mix of passion and experience to the table, so I do not think my age will be a problem,” Chenery said.

Chenery grew up on a beef farm in Rockbridge County.

“I think it will really be rewarding and fulfilling for myself and I think it will be good for the area because I will have a personal lens for a professional task,” Chenery said.

Godsey said Chenery’s valley roots was a “nice bonus” in her hiring.

“It’s nice to have somebody who was born, grew up in the region and goes outside to get the experience and come back to the region to work for us,” Godsey said. “She knows the region backwards and forwards and she’s invested in improving the region’s economic vitality.”

While the partnership will continue under a “business as usual” operation under Chenery, Godsey said there is a possibility the partnership will review its 2013 strategic plan early in her tenure. Chenery said she will intends to “build on the successes” of the partnership and to “carry its mission forward.”

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com