by Su Clauson-Wicker
Charlie Jewell, executive director of the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance since August 2015, calls himself a boomerang son of Virginia’s New River Valley.
“I was born and raised in Christiansburg. I got my degree at Radford University, and then I left for Atlanta for a job in the private sector,” says Jewell. “It was great place for a young professional, but after three years I was ready to return to the New River Valley.”
Jewell has a strong personal appreciation for the New River Valley attributes that he markets to companies across the nation – a relatively low cost of living, low crime rate, small-town friendliness, stimulating college-town environment, and plenty of outdoor recreation. He jokes about the local rush hour being a “rush minute.”
Jewell was a little ahead of the rest of the country in his appreciation of the region. In June, the New River Valley was rated one of the 30 top leading locations in America for new and expanding businesses to locate, according to Area Development magazine.
When Jewell returned to the New River Valley in 2005, he enrolled at Virginia Tech, earning a master’s in public administration and a graduate certificate in economic development. He took a job in his hometown, first in the Montgomery County Registrar’s Office, then in the Economic Development Department, focusing on marketing, business attraction, entrepreneurial development, and commercial real estate.
During his tenure there, Jewell actively supported 14 business expansion and recruitment projects totaling 758 new jobs and $59.6 million in investment. When he was selected for director of the NRV Alliance from a field of other well-qualified national candidates, no one was surprised.
Jewell has hit the ground running. He and his staff market the region at 13 trade shows a year, aiming at a diverse array of companies, from advanced manufacturing to technology-based companies to food and beverage processing operations. In his first year with the Alliance, Jewell helped guide the organization through its first formal strategic planning process in over a decade. As a result, the NRV Alliance is developing a targeted industry strategy, working with Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development to analyze and whittle down its target industries from 13 to three to five, so that marketing and initiatives supporting regional competitiveness can be focused effectively.
The NRV Alliance is also rebranding. The new brand will clearly promote their partner-based mission of attracting and retaining world-class jobs, investment, and talent, Jewell says. The NRV Alliance will begin working with a design firm on the brand overhaul, including logo and website, early in 2017.
When Jewell is not promoting the New River Valley, he is enjoying it. He likes mountain biking and hiking. He and his wife have a 4-year-old daughter, who is also starting to enjoy hiking.