JFCOM center reinvented

Published 1:32 pm Monday, December 24, 2012

The city of Suffolk has accepted a grant from the state Office of Economic Adjustment to expand services at the Virginia Regional Center for United States Joint Forces Command Workforce Transition.

The center was formed in April 2011 to help displaced workers and defense contractors recover from the disestablishment of the command. Since then, more than 3,100 workers have attended workshops and received services at the center, coordinator Karla Siedschlag said during a City Council work session last week.

“We’ve returned over $5,300,000 to the economy through quality placements in jobs for people who were unemployed,” she said.

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The new grant from the state in the amount of $176,600 will introduce the Hampton Roads Business Reinvention Project. It is modeled after the research and teachings of Dr. Saras Sarasvathy, a business professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

The new program is designed to help businesses reinvent themselves, according to Kevin Hughes, director of the Department of Economic Development.

“I think you’ll find it very timely and really sensitive to the things that are happening in the country,” Hughes told City Council members during last week’s meeting, speaking of the threat of massive defense cuts. “We continually hear about our need to diversify away from the Department of Defense.”

Siedschlag said the new project will help accomplish that goal.

“These principles are particularly applicable to the need to diversify and the need to reinvent new lines of business, find new customers and develop new products and services,” she said. “The overarching goal for our project is for businesses in Suffolk and our area to be able to innovate, create and diversify, even in unpredictable — especially in unpredictable environments, and to invent their own markets, rather than try to predict the future.”

The program also will help businesses build partnerships and cooperative ventures and take immediate action on contingencies and possibilities, she said.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson said she is excited about the new direction of the JFCOM center.

“It’s a great way to start the new year,” she said. “When we stood that up, we had a specific purpose, but the fact that it’s growing and changing and the evolution of it is very exciting for our city.”

For more information on the JFCOM center, visit www.jfcomtransition.com.