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Economic Development Studio Class

The Studio is a collaborative effort between Virginia Tech's Urban Affairs and Planning and the Center for Economic  & Community Engagement. Scott Tate, with support from John Provo, Sarah Lyon-Hill, and Maggie Cowell, are the faculty leading the studio effort. Graduate students work under faculty supervision on behalf of real-life clients and deliver actionable research projects. The students design and shape the implementation of the project, which typically provides a final sheltered work experience before they embark on their careers.

The Economic Development Studio at Virginia Tech is a resource for communities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. We conduct research on economic development issues, inform and empower decision-making, and provide technically sound recommendations for economic development strategy and action.

Have an idea for the Studio?  Email John Provo, Scott Tate, Sarah Lyon-Hill, or Maggie Cowell.

Studio Class Project Examples



Economic Recovery in Virginia: Studio participants worked with clients to create an economic recovery toolkit to help Virginia emerge from the pandemic. Participants completed writing assignments and reviewed literature to gain a better understanding of economic development in Virginia and how to develop appropriate responses to the crisis. The students held a focus group session with economic developers in Virginia to present mid-term findings they collected for their toolkit. Students refined their project based on the feedback they received from the focus group and then presented their final product to clients. 

View the Regional Economic Recovery and Resilience Toolkit here.



Redeveloping the Vaughan Furniture Building in Galax, VA: Studio participants worked with City Manager of Galax Keith Barker and owners of Vaughan Furniture to develop revitalization ideas for the vacant Vaughan Furniture Building. Participants conducted a literature review, interviewed city residents including business owners and organizational leaders, collected surveys, and created a plan for the building which they later presented to local business owners, town officials, and members of the public.


Virginia Growth and Opportunity Fund: Ridge Valley Fellowship Program: Studio participants worked with GO Virginia Regions 1, 2, and 8 to develop a proposal for an inter-regional educational and workforce collaboration to retain highly-educated employees that possess the essential skills and fundamentals that employers in these regions demand. 


Target Industry Analysis for the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance: The Economic Development Studio at Virginia Tech identified four target industries for the region through data analysis, stakeholder interviews, stakeholder focus groups and researching industry trends and regional assets.


Innovation Districts: Opportunities for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads: The Economic Development Studio at Virginia Tech assessed the potential of innovation districts in the Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia areas.


Upper James River Water Trail: In the fall of 2014, the Economic Development Studio at Virginia Tech created a framework for assessing the economic impact of the Upper James River Water Trail. Students researched the economic impact and potential of outdoor recreation within several communities across the United States, and developed strategies to maximize the economic benefits of the Upper James River Water Trail.


Reshoring to Virginia: Understanding the total cost of ownership researched the economic impact and potential of returning manufacturing to several communities across Virginia, and developed strategies for these communities to maximize the economic benefits of the reshoring phenomenon.


Building Connectivity Through Recreation Trails takes a closer look at the New River Trail State Park and the Virginia Creeper Trail to develop a 'how to' guide for trails looking to document their economic impact, and through cases studies in Damascus and Galax Virginia explores strategies to maximize the impact the trails have on those two communities.


Economic Development Strategies for Small Defense Communities consists of two parallel studies exploring new avenues for maximizing opportunities at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) located in Montgomery and Pulaski Counties and the Dahlgren Naval Weapons Station in King George County.


Sustainable Business Opportunities for Floyd, Virginia was prepared with grass-root community leaders in Floyd, a rural county off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the New River Valley. Building on the community's assets, interests, and real-world opportunities in the marketplace, the Studio constructed a business case for local sustainable enterprises.


Bringing Open Innovation to Economic Development in Virginia applied the open innovation model to Virginia Tech's distributed research facilities in Arlington and in Danville The two reports assess the potential of these institutions to link with industry and other research organizations and developed recommendations for economic development practitioners.


Alleghany Highlands Wood Products Labor Market Issues includes research and analysis on labor market issues in the Alleghany Highlands. The study was commissioned for the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission which was interested in exploring both needs of current industries and developing labor-based strategies for adding-value to those industry functions in the future.


Farmshoring in Virginia: Strategies for Linking Urban and Rural Economies in Virginia examined domestic outsourcing opportunities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Studio made recommendations to state and local policymakers how they can take advantage of the emerging farmshoring/domestic outsourcing phenomenon. The project was funded by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and various local communities. The students received the 2007 Student Project Award of the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association.