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Economic development specialist to expand scope of Virginia Tech Extension projects

January 19, 2018

Extension Specialist Conaway Haskins explains project details to a group.
Extension Specialist Conaway Haskins, pictured right, explains project details to a group at the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development.

Extension Specialist Conaway Haskins has joined forces with the Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics to help meet Virginia’s economic development needs.

The move is part the department’s larger effort to enhance Virginia’s local and regional economies, looking at ways to increase the breadth of knowledge dissemination from within the department to regions across the Commonwealth.

“Economic development reaches beyond the traditional areas of agriculture, food, and natural resources,” said Haskins. “What makes this role exciting is that it will expand on what the department and other Virginia Tech programs have already done through Extension by engaging in projects and with stakeholders in industries that historically haven’t received the same kind of support.”

Haskins is the department’s second off-campus Extension Specialist and is based out of the Virginia Tech Richmond Center. Martha Walker, an Extension Specialist based out of Danville, Virginia, has served the department since 2015. Walker works on Community Viability, with the core of her projects devoted to community leadership development and supporting Virginia’s growing agritourism industry.

Haskins initially joined the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension team in December 2016 after a three-year stint as Executive Director of the Virginia Community Economic Network. Now, with an official role within the Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, he will augment the department’s Extension program as he uses his background in government, policy, and regional planning to strengthen the processes, policies, and programming surrounding economic development with an eye toward improving the lives of Virginia’s communities.

The department’s partnership with Haskins will not only provide Haskins with an opportunity to learn more about the emerging frameworks used in applied economic research and analysis, but it will also help to connect the department to areas of need throughout the state.

“Conaway’s ideas and motivations align beautifully with Virginia Tech’s values,” said Department Head Matt Holt. “Ut Prosim means that we operate on a service-based platform and this partnership is an example of two parties coming together for the greater purpose of serving our community and our state.”

Haskins has built his career on serving Virginia communities by working to improve community economic prosperity.

“I grew up in rural Virginia when the economy was steadily losing jobs in tobacco, textiles, and manufacturing. I saw the effects on communities first-hand,” said Haskins. “I’ve also seen and experienced some of Virginia’s most economically vibrant regions.”

Between living and working in both economically distressed and economically vibrant communities, as well as serving in different roles from federal government, to state universities, to local nonprofits, Haskins has a deep understanding of and appreciation for development projects and issues.

“There are complexities at every level of development. Having tactical experience on different levels is very valuable for seeing problems holistically and effectively executing strategic solutions,” said Haskins.

Haskins is eager to work with and learn from the department’s faculty as they together formulate solutions to Virginia’s economic challenges, one community, one issue, at a time.