William & Mary’s Director of Economic Development Leonard Sledge has been named chair of Virginia’s University-Based Economic Development (UBED) Officer’s Group. UBED works to bring together Virginia’s universities to further economic development across the Commonwealth of Virginia and helps link businesses to intellectual and research capital offered by these institutions.
“UBED is a forum where economic development practitioners at colleges from across the state come together and figure out where, and how, we can do things collaboratively,” Sledge said.
Prior to coming to William & Mary in early 2007, Sledge was the Director of the Institutes of Excellence in the Workforce Development Services area of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). Sledge came to higher education from a career in the semi-conductor industry. He brought that experience to bear first in workforce development and economic development at The Maricopa Community College District (MCCD) in Greater Phoenix, Arizona before transitioning to VCCS.
Sledge has been involved with UBED for almost seven years. He sees UBED’s role as a facilitator of public-private-university partnerships as key to local, regional and state economic development.
Sledge began leading the UBED group last fall. While the position has no defined term, he expects to hold the post about a year. During his tenure as chair, Sledge hopes to see the group’s working relationship with the state expanded.
“The connections UBED offers with institutions of higher education across the Commonwealth can identify capabilities and areas of expertise vital to business growth and expansion in Virginia,” he said.
For example, he noted, in recent years universities in Virginia have played a role in economic development projects that have resulted in new manufacturing facilities relocating or establishing in Virginia, like Rolls Royce’s new facility in Prince Georges County.
“One of the things I love about UBED is the fact that all of the colleges that participate, including the Virginia Community Colleges, are all so very different but our differences allow us to positively impact economic development in different ways across the state,” Sledge said.
As part of this effort, William & Mary has been involved in helping businesses grow and expand in James City County. Since 2010 the College’s Technology and Business Center has managed the James City County Business and Technology Incubator. During this time ten companies have been affiliated with the incubator. International, information technology, veteran owned, and growing are a few words that can be used to describe the companies in the incubator, he noted.
Sledge also sees the current state of the national economy as a growth opportunity for states.
“Virginia has the makings of a phenomenal base for growth and change,” he added. “There are a wealth of areas where we can engage the community. Economically speaking, none of us – educational institution, business, government – is immune to change,” he said. “But universities can help businesses and state economies respond to that change by effectively using the intellectual capital and other resources colleges and universities have to offer.”