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UMW, FRA join forces to support economic development
UMW announces creation of Center for Economic Development

 The University of Mary Washington has signed a five-year contract with the FRA to boost regional development.
FILE/REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 6/15/2011

BY BILL FREEHLING

The University of Mary Washington and Fredericksburg Regional Alliance are teaming up to market and develop the region.

UMW yesterday announced the formation of the University Center for Economic Development, which UMW President Rick Hurley said will "position the university to assist the entire region with economic development efforts."

"This region of Virginia is ripe with opportunity to further develop economically, and I would like to see UMW become a key player in that effort," Hurley said.

As part of that effort, UMW plans to award a five-year contract to the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance starting July 1.

The alliance will work to find available funds for the center, offer internship opportunities for students, provide UMW faculty and students with access to its demographic software and allow the university to tap into the organization's international connections.

This fall, the FRA will move from its current space at 2300 Fall Hill Ave. in Fredericksburg into about 2,000 square feet of office space at Eagle Village across from UMW. The FRA will lease the space from the University of Mary Washington Foundation.

The UMW Small Business Development Center will also move to Eagle Village this fall from the university's Stafford County campus. The University Center for Economic Development will be headed by Meta Braymer, whose title will change to vice president for economic development and regional engagement.

FRA President Gene Bailey said having the weight of the university behind him will help attract businesses to the region. He said the region already has the housing, retail and workforce, and the next stage is attracting additional higher-paid jobs.

The FRA will remain an independent organization governed by a board of directors, Bailey said. Its existing three-person staff will not be expanded.

The alliance will continue to raise funds from private businesses and local governments along with its efforts to help develop the new UMW center. Bailey said both efforts will be with an eye on regional growth.

UMW put out a request for proposals for the contract in March. The FRA was the only group that applied.

Hurley is on the FRA board, so he did not participate in awarding the contract.

Hurley said the idea for the University Center for Economic Development came to him while driving to work several months ago. He said it is not patterned after any other center, and he thinks it will develop and evolve over time.

UMW is also expanding its role in area economic development with an under-construction research and graduate campus in the Dahlgren area of King George County that is expected to open in January. UMW has also agreed to participate in similar concepts in North Stafford and the planned Ni Village development in Spotsylvania County.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com