Introducing Fluvanna’s new economic development coordinator

By Madeline Otten, correspondent

Wanting to get away from the urban lifestyle, Fluvanna County’s new economic development coordinator, Jennifer Edwards, moved from Mobile, Ala., to start her new life in central Virginia.

As economic development coordinator, Edwards hopes to grow and develop the business climate within the county. Her first day on the job was Sept. 10, and she is currently observing the community and business climate and understanding the prime areas of growth. She will then think strategically to determine what businesses would be a good fit to recruit to the community.

“I love that I am going to be developing and sustaining community, tourism, and business in Fluvanna County,” said Edwards. “I am also learning a lot about the history and culture of the county through the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program.”

Edwards has projects to tackle. She works on business retention and expansion efforts for existing businesses, making sure they are satisfied with the resources the county has to offer. For future projects, she wants to establish more education seminars on topics such as marketing and expanding the reach of customers for small and medium-sized businesses.

“I see a lot of potential to grow the community assets, incorporating the rich history Fluvanna has to offer as well as tourism, small and large commerce. I want the businesses of Fluvanna to sustain, develop and grow,” she said.

Edwards earned her bachelor’s in English from William Carey University, located in Mississippi, and a Master of Science in Economic and Workforce Development from the University of Southern Mississippi. Recently she was the director of external projects at the Melton Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MCEI). There she helped students, faculty, and the community target businesses in Mobile, Ala., to create a more entrepreneurially-minded area. On top of that, she helped establish the beginnings of a new digital media industry in New Orleans, La., through the Greater New Orleans Economic Alliance.

Those were just a few of the many tasks that kept Edwards busy during her time in Alabama. She also taught courses in management and entrepreneurship at the Mitchell College of Business from the University of South Alabama and served as an MCEI board member for six years from 2012 to 2018. In addition, she is a co-inventor of the product Banana Wave®, which is a healthy alternative to soy or almond milk.

The previous coordinator, Jason Smith, moved to a take a new job with Virginia Economic Development Partnership located in Richmond. Smith handled new businesses and business spotlight submissions, as well as the Economic Development Authority. Last year he received the BASIC/IEDC Training Scholarship from the Virginia Economic Developers Association.

In her free time, Edwards like to go biking and hiking – activities for which central Virginia is known. She also loves to travel, going to festivals, picking from farms or orchards, and spending time with friends and family. Unlike most, Edwards enjoys a good rainy day because she can cozy up and watch a classic black and white movie.

Moving to central Virginia has helped Edwards get away from a congested lifestyle. Edwards is now able to be in a car for 40 minutes without traffic – something that was uncommon in Mobile.

“I love that Fluvanna County is so quaint and that everyone knows everyone. I think me being new blood is an exciting thing for Fluvanna,” said Edwards. “I am new to Virginia and getting engrossed with the history and culture here is so exciting to me. I believe that being centrally located is a huge benefit for all the citizens that live here as well as businesses.”

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