Jim Spore, who was city manager of Virginia Beach for 24 years before becoming the charter President & CEO of Reinvent Hampton Roads (RHR), will retire June 15 after six years with the start-up regional economic development organization. The RHR Board of Directors has elected Nancy L. Grden, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth & Innovation (HRMC) and Associate Vice President of Old Dominion University’s Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, as new President & CEO. Spore will continue in an advisory role through mid-August.
RHR is a non-profit whose mission is to create more and higher paying jobs, build a culture where entrepreneurship can thrive, and expand the region’s economy.
“Jim has given outstanding service for RHR and defined its path,” says John O. “Dubby” Wynne, Chairman of the Board of RHR. “With Jim’s leadership, RHR has developed a framework for progress on a host of initiatives, including encouraging regional collaboration, retaining and attracting talent, and advancing infrastructure and resiliency. Hampton Roads is in a much better place thanks to Jim’s leadership, relationships, and vision, as well as his long and distinguished career serving the community.”
Wynne said that the RHR Board was unanimous in its decision to hire Grden. “Nancy has significant experience as an entrepreneur and in corporate boardrooms and university administration. She is also well aware that RHR needs to ‘reinvent’ itself, and we have already begun the process to redefine its function and structure. Nancy is eager to lead that evolution.”
“Our region has a truly unique array of assets and opportunities to be leveraged and scaled,” says Grden. “In collaboration with our community partners and municipal leaders, I look forward to building on RHR’s foundation for the region’s economic development, innovation, and leadership ahead.” Grden’s business credentials include Chief Development/Marketing Officer for Medicaid/Medicare services company Amerigroup (acquired by Anthem), co-founder and General Manager for biotech company Genomind, and in strategic planning and other executive roles with predecessor banks to Bank of America, healthcare company ValueOptions, as well as in federal and state government relations in Washington, D.C. She is active in community leadership organizations for entrepreneurship and innovation, including as inaugural chair of 757 Collab and immediate past Chair of 757 Angels, an angel-funding network.
“It has been a tremendous honor to head up RHR these past six plus years,” says Spore, who was city manager in Garland, Texas before assuming the same post in Virginia Beach in 1991. “I have worked with a stellar staff and volunteer business leaders to help position our community for further growth. I have also collaborated closely with Nancy and am confident that she will take the organization and the region to even greater heights.”
“We thank Jim for his service in guiding RHR these past years and since its inception,” said Deborah M. DiCroce, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Community Foundation (HRCF) and RHR Executive Committee member. “We all look forward to RHR’s future with Nancy’s leadership and background in business, innovation, and education.” HRCF was instrumental in the establishment of RHR and is a continued RHR supporter.
Under Spore’s leadership, RHR assumed responsibility to administer the highly successful and innovative GO VA Program for Hampton Roads. The Virginia General Assembly created GO VA in 2016 to incentivize collaboration between two or more local jurisdictions to produce more higher paying jobs. To date, RHR has recommended and the Regional Council has approved 37 grants, totaling over $55M of investment in the regional economy when coupled with the required local match.
“Nancy Grden has championed ODU’s role as a critical contributor to economic growth in Hampton Roads,” says ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, PhD. “She has served as a catalyst for connecting ODU to the business community to advance the region. We are excited to continue working closely with her in our shared goal of making Hampton Roads a premier destination for investment.”
At ODU, Grden was co-chair of the Economic Development Catalyst Task Force, a joint university and community initiative to identify talent and innovation pathways for the region. Grden, who holds an MBA from the University of South Carolina, a Masters in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a B.A. in Economics from Bucknell University, also directs a major strategic initiative to have ODU be globally recognized as a maritime focused institution. “We will immediately begin a search for her successor,” says Hemphill, “although we know hers will be big shoes to fill.”