David Crosier, Staff Writer
One of our own has been named one of 50 top economic developers in North America for 2019.
Marla Akridge, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation, was recently named a top economic developer by Consultant Connect, a global network of economic development professionals.
Each winner was nominated by someone in the economic development or site consultant communities for their outstanding leadership and innovation in the profession.
“Being selected as one of the nation’s 50 top economic developers is extremely humbling for me,” she said.
“The selection process was made by consultants around the nation who know what businesses want when they select a location. The panel recognized our efforts to encourage and support small business development with the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, as well as our innovative Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone project based on emerging technologies for needs of the unmanned systems industry.
“Development of an area’s economy is a team effort that takes dedication and hard work by many stakeholders following a multi-pronged approach. It is especially important to have cooperation and collaboration in a rural area where resources are sparse and budgets are lean. I love the challenges that arise in the work that I do and truly enjoy seeing businesses succeed, both large and small, which all helps to anchor and enhance the overall health of the community.”
Akridge has served as the executive director of the AHEDC since Nov. 16, 2015.
One of the many projects Marla has been involved in since coming to the Alleghany Highlands is the drone-zone initiative, which has sought to bring drone-related tourism and potential technological developers to the area.
Her efforts in that area have resulted in federal fuding from the Appalachian Regional Commission to assist with the planning and refurbishment of the former Edgemont school building in Covington.
Several entrepreneurs in the drone technology development field have located to the former school and have begun work on creating new, cutting-edge drone technology.
Marla has also been very active with the Advancement Foundation and it’s annual Gauntlet competition.
The competition helps small business owners take their businesses or ideas to a new level.
This year’s competition finals, which were held in Vinton Thursday, saw 14 Highlands small businesses win cash and/or in-kind prizes to help with needed areas in their businesses.
The 14 businesses won a combined $115,279 in cash and/or in-kind prizes and their businesses are estimated to collectively contribute over $4.3 million in to the Highlands economy.
“I would like to commend and congratulate Marla for being named one of the top 50 economic developers,” said Greg Madsen, chairman of the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation. “She works tirelessly on behalf of the Alleghany Highlands to improve our economy and quality of life. This recognition is well deserved and we are fortunate to have Marla in her role as executive director.”Monday, May 20, 2019GO
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