Economic developers honor Shenandoah Valley region for best practices

economic-forecast-headerThe Virginia Economic Developers Association (VEDA) announced the selection of The Shenandoah Valley Region as winner of the 2015 Community Economic Development Award for the Fields of Gold Agritourism Program.

Fields of Gold is a collaborative regional project that promotes agritourism in eight counties and five cities in the Shenandoah Valley: Counties of Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Highland, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah and the Cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro. The awards were presented at the association’s recent Spring Conference in Norfolk.

The Shenandoah Valley Region, selected in Population Category Five (>100,000), was nominated by Joan Hollen, Shenandoah Valley Partnership, and the submitted project was presented for the Business Retention/ Expansion & Community Development Category of the CEDA program.

Fields of Gold is an economic development initiative with a mission to create and retain jobs on the farm, expand tourism jobs off the farm, nurture an environment for entrepreneurism, and market the Shenandoah Valley as an agritourism destination.

In early 2011, local leaders in the Shenandoah Valley met to look at ways to take advantage of this high interest in agriculture, tourism and the local foods movement, and to develop a program that would benefit everyone. Local officials understood the economic benefits a regional program could offer, as opposed to each locality individually operating its own program. These discussions laid the foundation for Fields of Goldas a partnership between local governments, economic development and tourism entities, agribusiness, and the farming community to promote regional agritourism.

An Economic Impact Analysis Study, conducted by Chmura Economics & Analytics, estimated that the agritourism industry in theFields of Gold region generated $22.4 million in sales in 2011. The total economic impact of the industry, including multiplier effects, was estimated to have been $34.8 million that supported 811 jobs in the region in 2011. Furthermore, the study showed significant market growth potential in the number of agritourism visitors and total agritourism sales. For more information on the Fields of Gold program visit their website at

The CEDA awards are designed to recognize outstanding communities in the Commonwealth for their efforts in advancing the economic viability of their community through economic and community development programs. This is the seventh year for VEDA’s Community Economic Development Awards. David Denny, Chairman of VEDA’s CEDA selection committee, said, “We are extremely pleased with the quality nominations we continue to receive. Virginia continues to lead the way in best practices in economic and community development.” To see copies of the Community Economic Development Awards submissions link to

VEDA is a member-based professional association committed to providing training and development; networking opportunities; and serving as the voice of the economic development community, creating economic opportunity and prosperity for the Commonwealth of Virginia. VEDA’s membership is comprised of more than 530 economic development professionals and related industry professionals from across the state of Virginia. For more information about VEDA visit the website at



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