Summit for Rural Prosperity kicks off Oct. 12

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears will be in Smithfield on Oct. 12 as the keynote speaker for the Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity.

The Virginia Rural Center, a joint venture of the General Assembly’s nonprofit Center for Rural Virginia and 18-member Rural Prosperity Commission, hosts the event annually. This is the first year Smithfield has hosted the event.

Exhibits will open at The Smithfield Center at 11 a.m., followed by an 11:30 lunch buffet and opening remarks by Virginia Rural Center Executive Director Kristie Proctor, Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, and state Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarkesville, who serves as chair and a founding member of the Center for Rural Virginia.

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Sears’ keynote address and remarks by Darrell D.J. Jordan, chief of staff for Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, will follow.

Presentations by Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel and Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard “Shep” Miller III are scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m.

From 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Brewer will moderate a panel on how agriculture and natural resources overlap with local economies. Panelists include Smithfield-Isle of Wight Tourism Director Judy Winslow, Smithfield Foods Chief Sustainability Office Stewart Leeth, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr, and acting Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Voyles.

From 4 to 5:30 p.m., attendees will have their choice of boat tours of the Pagan River departing from the docks located behind Smithfield Foods’ Commerce Street headquarters or a walking tour of downtown Smithfield.

Presentations scheduled for Oct. 13 include a 9 a.m. panel discussion titled “Rural Housing Crisis: Solutions to Solve the Problem.” Panelists include Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development Director Bryan Horn, Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, who serves as chair of the Virginia Housing Commission, Eagle Construction President Josh Goldschmidt and Virginia Housing Director of Strategic Housing Chris Thompson.

From 10:30 to 11 a.m., Dr. Tamarah Holmes, director of broadband for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, will give an update on bringing high-speed internet to rural Virginia.

From 11 a.m. to noon, another panel titled “Increasing our Rural Workforce: Collaboration & Innovation” will commence. Panelists include Virginia Secretary of Labor G. Bryan Slater, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick and Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera.