On May 22, 2019 the New River Valley Regional Commission board of directors, comprised of elected officials and citizen appointees across the region, hosted a dinner event at Virginia Tech – Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, VA to honor their annual award recipients. Over 100 local government elected officials, state and federal representatives, and local government planning commission chairs were in attendance.
Mr. John Smolak, the Director of Economic Development for American Electric Power (AEP) received the Friend of the Valley award. This award is given to a person or organization from outside the New River Valley who has made significant contributions to the betterment of the region. John and American Electric Power were recognized for their work in supporting community success in economic development in their service area. AEP offers a Quality Site program which is a rigorous certification program for industrial recruitment sites to complete necessary due diligence to minimize risk, remove guesswork, and accelerate speed to market for companies seeking properties for their projects. The New River Valley Commerce Park, which is an AEP certified site, received support for its efforts to market the park to industries in 2019 with a $10,000 EDGE grant which stands for Economic Development Growth Enhancement. Other investments through the EDGE program in the New River Valley include $20,000 awarded to the Floyd County EDA to enhance its branding and marketing program including a new website for its industrial properties and a new shell building. $15,000 was awarded to Onward New River Valley to create a balanced marketing strategy with direct marketing to site selection consultants and new available site videos for its regional jurisdictions.
Dr. Raymond Smoot, Community Leader, received the Citizen of the Valley award. This award is given to a citizen within the New River Valley who has made significant contributions to the betterment of the region. Dr. Smoot retired in 2012 as Chief Executive Officer and Secretary-Treasurer of the Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc. where he was responsible for management of assets in excess of $1.3 billion including the university’s endowment, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and the Hotel Roanoke. He previously held several vice-presidential posts at Virginia Tech, most recently as Vice President for Administration and Treasurer. Dr. Smoot chairs the Go Virginia Region 2 Council and has recently been appointed by Governor Northam to the Commonwealth Transportation Board as the Salem District Representative. He is active in business and community affairs, serving as chairman and director of Union Bankshares (a regional bank), executive committee member and finance committee chair of Carilion Clinic, and a director of RGC Resources, Inc. He is tireless in his efforts to secure Amtrak passenger rail service to the New River Valley.
Mr. Nick Rush, 7th District Virginia House of Delegates, received the Champion of the Valley award. This award is given to an appointed or elected official within, or representing, the New River Valley who has greatly assisted communities and residents during their service to the public. Delegate Rush was recognized for his tireless community service and leadership to the region. After graduating from Christiansburg High School, Delegate Rush served in the United States Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. He left active duty as a non-commissioned officer in 1989. At 23 years old, he was elected to the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors as the youngest member in history. He served for 12 years on the board and is a former Chairman and Vice-Chairman. He was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in November of 2011 and has been re-elected in 2013, 2015, and most recently in 2017 to continue serving the citizens of the 7th House District. At the beginning of the 2018 legislative session, he was elected Majority Whip by his fellow Caucus members. His previous elected official experience on the Board of Supervisors provided the foundation for appointments that he now holds which have a direct impact on the region especially as his involvement with the Committee on Appropriations in the areas of economic development (Vice Chairman of the Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission); higher education (Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education); school safety (member of the House Select Committee on School Safety, Chairman of the Infrastructure Subcommittee); state employees (Appropriations Subcommittee on Compensation and Retirement), and education (Appropriations Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education) He works closely with local and state agencies to make certain that the needs of the Valley are addressed as quickly and as efficiently as possible, always with a sincere smile and willingness to do whatever he can, as best that he can.