Director of Economic Development, Bedford County
Traci, you’ve been a part of the Bedford County economic development team since 2011. Tell us a little bit about your career path.
I started out in the private sector before crossing over into public sector work. I worked my way through college at BWXT in their public relations department so by the time I graduated, I could hit the ground running. I worked at Georgia Pacific in public relations for a couple of years, and later, at Ericsson as Director of Internal Communications for the North American Market Unit. That job put me on the road a lot in the 10 years I was employed, and I got some really great corporate communications and investor relations experience. I shifted my career toward economic development when a job opened up at Virginia’s Region 2000 Partnership where I managed regional economic development projects and marketing for nearly five years before the Bedford County position came open.
You worked in several different industries through the years. How do those experiences help you in your current position?
Having worked in paper, nuclear energy, and wireless communications industries, I got a good understanding of those cluster sectors in our region. At Ericsson, I did a lot of business writing and media coaching for our VPs, and I led an international project where I taught communicators worldwide about the best ways to communicate with managers and employees. In my job now, I can utilize those principles when I meet with business owners and find out how I can help them grow their businesses.
Looking back at what you’ve accomplished so far, which projects stand out in your mind the most?
In my current job, I think of the 30-barrel Beale’s Brewery where I wrote a grant that led to the revitalization of the historic building and I facilitated the financing with the developer and the EDA. Today, that craft beer is distributed to approximately 200 places in Virginia and the project is paying off. I also think of our Bedford One program, which connects hundreds of high school students annually with local companies, offering them tours and information about careers. But the staple of what I do is to help businesses locate or expand in Bedford County, so I think of dozens of companies that have added hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of equipment since 2011—I wrote Tobacco Commission grants for many of them or offered other assistance through my office or the EDA.
Looking ahead, what are some short-term and long-term goals you have for the county in terms of economic development?
Keep in mind that economic development is a “long game,” meaning that some of my short-term goals will be the same as long-term goals. The difference is that I constantly help to move the needle further toward the long-term goals. The ultimate goal is for my work to influence the addition of jobs and investment in Bedford County and I hold myself to that daily. Some other goals are:
• Meet with all county manufacturing businesses annually through business roundtables or one-on-one visits as part of our Business Retention/Expansion program
• Help to see county-wide broadband carried out for the benefit of residents and businesses through the county’s ongoing plan and subsequent projects, grants and coordination
• Work with regional and state officials to identify a new productive use for the TEVA facility once it closes in the next year or so and assist employees affected by the closure to find new jobs
• Market and work with LUTECH and the Center for Engineering Research and Education as a part of our overall strategy to help companies commercialize their products and hire qualified workers
• Build a 40,000-square-foot shell building in the New London Business and Technology Center and attract an advanced manufacturer to lease or purchase it
• Market and sell a lot to a new business in the Montvale and Bedford business parks within the county
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Each day is unique in that each project I work on is unique. However, in a typical day, I will speak with or meet with several Bedford County company leaders to address any workforce or growth challenges they are having. I also spend time each day working on some part of our marketing plan to promote the county as a great place to live and work and to market our land and buildings that are available for businesses.
How do you stay organized?
I track all meetings and calls in my Outlook calendar so I don’t miss anything and I write my priority projects on a white board in my office. It helps to see my short- and long-term projects every day and update them as I make progress. I also love the search button on my computer for finding documents I need. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I am straightforward and pragmatic, and I definitely enjoy developing others and pushing them to achieve great things.
If you could pass along one piece of leadership advice to others, what would it be?
Be kind and lead by example. Show others how to be no-nonsense, get the job done, and celebrate milestones along the way.
What’s life like for you outside of work?
I love cooking and entertaining for my friends and family. As a member of the Bedford Rotary Club, I am involved in Rotary International—both at the club and district level—and have presented about polio eradication to many clubs across the district. If we don’t eradicate this disease in the last three endemic countries, it could come back to the U.S. and attack our youngest citizens. I am also a friend of Brook Hill Farm and stop by a couple times a week to see the teen girls and mentor them. And since I’m a foodie, I bring snacks with me.