Hollie Lee, Economic Development Specialist
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
I was born in Fairfax, Virginia and raised in Augusta County.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I still live in Augusta County just outside of Waynesboro, so I’ve always been within close distance to the Charlottesville/Albemarle region. I couldn’t imagine living anyplace else!
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
I have a great family – dad, mom, older sister, and two nieces. And, I can’t leave out my sweet beagle, Luke. My sister’s pug, Roger, also vacations with me for about six months out of the year.
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I received a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Political Science from Mary Baldwin College in 2002 and a Master of Public Administration from James Madison University in 2004.
What were you doing before you came to work for the City?
Prior to working at the City, I was employed at Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg as a Planning Analyst.
Your job title is Economic Development Specialist – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
One of the greatest things about working in the Office of Economic Development is that we get to be involved in such a wide variety of projects. Sometimes, I’m planning events like the Charlottesville Community Job Fair, and other times I’m meeting with residents to help them learn more about starting a business. I also get the opportunity to work directly with various business organizations within our community, such as the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville and the Chamber Minority Business Council. When I am not engaging in these outreach efforts, I can often be found writing reports or designing departmental/event materials like flyers, brochures, etc.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The best part of my job is working with people to help them fulfill their dreams of small business ownership. There are a handful of people whom I’ve been working with since I came to the City five years ago. I can remember when they first stepped into our office with a business idea. Now they are operating successful organizations that have positively impacted the local business community. To see how these individuals have grown their businesses over the years, due to dedication and hard work, is truly rewarding.
The Office of Economic Development offers business assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners. Sometimes we hear from business owners who are struggling to keep their doors open (for various reasons). They work long, exhaustive hours and have invested most of their own money and savings into their business. It is difficult to hear about these situations. However, we try really hard to work with these individuals either by offering direct technical assistance (such help with business plans and marketing plans, familiarizing them with government procurement and helping them get small, woman-, and/or minority-owned certification, etc.) or making referrals to our local partners who can better serve their specific needs (e.g., the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, etc.).
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
Our office offers one-on-one consulting to anyone interested in starting a business. We also host workshops throughout the year for aspiring entrepreneurs to try to help them learn more about starting a business (e.g., planning, licensing, financing, etc.).
In addition to this, we support a lot of community workforce development initiatives. One effort in particular is the Charlottesville Community Job Fair. We work with over 10 community partners to host this event, which creates opportunities for people to gain direct access to employers in a day and age when most recruiting takes place online. Throughout the years, hundreds of people have gotten jobs as a result of the job fair.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the City?
I’ll have to mention the Charlottesville Community Job Fair again here. Working with our partners (e.g., Charlottesville and Albemarle Social Services, the Department of Aging & Rehab Services, National College, etc.), we have really been able to grow this event into something that truly creates employment opportunities for people in our community and helps local organizations find qualified candidates.
For the first time this fall, we also offered the Charlottesville Community Career Conference, which is designed to complement the job fair. In addition to offering job seekers the opportunity for one-on-one interactions with local employers, we also included a series of panels on the major employment industries in our area. The career conference was well-received, and a lot of people got to learn more about industry trends and how to break into emerging fields such as healthcare and technology.
What is a little-known fact about you?
One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Walker, Texas Ranger.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
I love spending time with my family, which of course includes my dogs, Luke and Roger.