UVA Darden School Hosts Congressman Robert Hurt and Virginia Business Leaders at 2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference

By Laura Hennessey Martens

U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, representative for Virginia’s 5th District, delivered the keynote address at the 2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference held Friday, 13 March, at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

Convened by the Darden School’s Institute for Business in Society, the full-day conference gathered approximately 60 small business owners and entrepreneurs from across the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as faculty and staff from the Darden School. Attendees included past applicants and winners of the institute’s Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards, a related biennial awards program that recognizes strong, resilient companies in some of Virginia’s most economically challenged communities.

The interactive and conversational forum included a series of talks, panel discussions, case studies and networking opportunities to share best practices and address challenges faced by Virginia’s small-business leaders.

In his remarks, Rep. Hurt credited small businesses with creating jobs and contributing to the state and global economies. While noting the critical role that Virginia companies play in economic development, the congressman acknowledged regulatory inefficiencies that these organizations often face, stating that “government needs to do a better job of supporting local businesses and reducing burdensome regulations that hinder job creation and economic development.” He also invited questions from audience members, to explore how Washington leaders could better help them grow their businesses.

Darden Professor Gregory Fairchild, who envisioned and started the program in 2010, provided an overview of how the idea evolved for this conference and the overall business and economic resilience efforts at Darden. Fairchild also informed the participants about the business resilience research conducted by Professors Jared Harris and Morela Hernandez from the Darden School and Megan Hess of Washington and Lee University. Their research studied companies around the Commonwealth of Virginia, including many of the businesses in attendance at the conference.

The team of three professors made observations and drew conclusions about what makes some companies more “resilient,” or better able to overcome challenges, than others. An overview of this research was included in a special edition of the Darden School’s publication Ideas to Action, entitled “ Business and Economic Resilience: What Virginia Businesses Can Teach Us,” which was released at the conference.

Throughout the day, participants delved into a business strategy case with Darden Professor Michael Lenox, and engaged with several presenters and panelists including Darden faculty and representatives of financial institutions. The final session included a panel of past winners of the Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards, who shared their stories of building resilient businesses.

While the conference provided the attendees an opportunity to learn from the university faculty, government officials and business experts guiding each panel, they also learned from each other.

Robert Taylor, chief executive officer of Gamewood Technology Group Inc., said the forum was “very interesting and inspirational. I learned that many of my business problems have been other businesses’ problems.  I am not alone.”

Having the opportunity to learn from other companies was a common theme among the conference participants.  Many attendees stressed how valuable it is for business leaders to come together for a day of sharing and learning, including Derrick Alford, chief executive officer of Fiscal Fitness Tax and Financial Services in Richmond, Virginia, who added, “Hearing others’ stories, challenges and victories provides fuel for the journey.”

In addition to the 2015 conference and report, the Institute for Business in Society hosts the Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards every other year to recognize strong, resilient companies in Virginia’s most economically challenged communities. More information about the awards and conference can be found on the institute’s website.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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