The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce wants to hire a full-time program coordinator for its Defense Affairs Committee.

The committee was established in 2009 and has served as a group for networking and communication for regional veterans and the defense community with business and government entities in the region.

“The defense industry is an important sector of our economy for Albemarle County, for Greene County and for the city of Charlottesville,” said Elizabeth Cromwell, president of the chamber.

The U.S. Department of Defense is the fifth-largest employer in Albemarle County, according to quarterly census data of employment and wages from the Virginia Employment Commission, and the ninth-largest in the Charlottesville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes the city and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson counties.

A strategic plan for the committee completed earlier this year states that the highest priority for the committee is a full-time professional staff member, as activities have become more involved than what can be supported by the group’s volunteer members.

Earlier this month, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted to contribute $100,000 over two years for the pilot of the position. The funding will come from the county’s Economic Development Investment Pool.

“We are reaching out to other organizations to also help fund this position,” Deborah van Eersel, chief administrative officer and director of marketing for the University of Virginia Foundation and chairwoman of the Defense Affairs Committee, said at the supervisors’ meeting.

The proposed salary range is $85,000 to $100,000, and the position will be located at the UVa Research Park.

Roger Johnson, the county’s economic development director, said that as his office worked on the economic development strategic plan, called Project Enable, they learned that the defense sector is important to the local economy.

“We also learned that the only concerted effort here locally was the Defense Affairs Committee to serve business retention and expansion of this support industry,” he said.

Project Enable includes a strategy to partner with the Defense Affairs Committee on the retention and expansion of the defense industry.

“It’s very important that we have a plan to both help these folks be successful here, retain them, as well as minimize any impacts or future issues,” he said.

The position will be hired as part of a two-year pilot, to see the performance of the position and whether the outcomes also meet up with strategic goals for the chamber, Cromwell said.

“If it turns out to be an effective partnership, I have every expectation that the partners who have come into it will want to come back into it again, but I think we’re going to have to see what the outcome in two years is,” she said. “That’s why we didn’t want to make it a one-year position because it’s going to be too soon to actually take a look at any results and see if they’re paying off for economic development purposes.”

County staff said they will provide the Board of Supervisors a report on the hiring and six-month updates on the position’s performance.

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Allison Wrabel is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7261, awrabel@dailyprogress.com or @craftypanda on Twitter.

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