Unprecedented meeting brings together local leaders

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ROANOKE, Va (WDBJ7) Thursday night, representatives from across Southwest Virginia squeezed into a room together: Roanoke, Salem, Allegheny, Floyd, and many more municipalities all present for a first-of-its-kind meeting.

The venue: Virginia Tech Carillion School of Medicine. The purpose: figuring out how two of the area's biggest engines of economic growth can better work with local communities.

"What do our regions want and need? And how do we have that deeper conversation about collaboration and partnership?" said Nancy Howell Agee , President and CEO of Carilion Clinic.

She says the meeting was about opening a dialogue between Virginia Tech, Carilion, and local governments.

"What we need to hear from all of the leaders is what's working, what's not, how can we be partners, and how can we help others be successful?"

Those local leaders received an hours-long update from Agee, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, and others focused on how the VTC partnership brings investment, talent and new jobs to the region.

Local leaders, including Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, got a chance to ask questions, including what VTC is doing to help under-served areas.

"I wanted to make sure Carilion maybe considers that," said Lea.

The Roanoke mayor says the meeting is a positive step forward, and could get the communities of Southwest Virginia to collaborate more closely on things like access to broadband and transportation.

"There may be some things that we could help with," he added.

Though this was the first meeting of it's kind, Nancy Agee left saying she hopes it's not the last.There are, she says, many more questions to ask, and plenty of work for everyone involved.

"At the end of the day, this needs to be the best place in the world where people can live, love, work, play and pray, and if we do that, we'll have been successful," she said.