Drive by the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) and the sights and sounds of economic transformation present themselves immediately.  Right across the street, construction crews at Kyocera SGS Tech Hub, a manufacturer of precision cutting tools, swiftly work to complete construction of a sleek new facility set to open soon and employ 35 people.  This company represents one of the latest drawn to the area in part because of the talent pipeline produced by the advanced manufacturing training program offered by Danville Community College and complemented with a third-year Capstone program at IALR’s Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining.  Kyocera’s opening constitutes just one example of IALR living its mission, to catalyze economic transformation within Southern Virginia.

“IALR is fortunate to have passionate employees and a multitude of partners and supporters who breathe life into our mission on a daily basis,” said Mark Gignac, executive director of IALR.  “Every decision, every goal, every metric centers on positively impacting and transforming our region’s economy—and what an honor it is to do such exciting work.”  

Mark Gignac, Executive Director - Photo by Michelle Dalton Photography as seen in June Evince

IALR’s service area focuses on the counties of Mecklenburg, Halifax, Pittsylvania, Henry, Franklin and Patrick as well as the cities of Danville and Martinsville.  Across this expanse—and many times, even farther—IALR’s divisions work hand in hand to identify, plan, execute and leverage opportunities for economic transformation.  

The Advanced Learning division of IALR manages programs that lead to a skilled and work-ready talent pipeline.  From K-12 accelerated learning curricula like the Piedmont Governor’s School to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camps and a mobile inspiration lab, chances abound for the region’s youth to experience and develop an interest in a STEM discipline and career path.  The division also runs adult workshops and oversees the Dan River Year AmeriCorps program, providing service-based learning opportunities.

IALR’s Applied Research division supports industry needs with research centers in analytical chemistry, advanced materials, precision agriculture and applied biostimulants.  Cutting edge technology and leading scientists have positioned IALR as a beacon for world-renowned programs like its growing library of endophytes, or beneficial bacteria—including a collection IALR recently licensed to Indigo Ag, Inc., a company dedicated to helping farmers sustainably feed the planet.  Other impactful programs include drones to help farmers address plant health issues and optimize crop growth, testing labs for industry and various others.

The Economic Development division of IALR collaborates with state and local economic development staff to effectively market the region’s assets to prospective companies and leverage opportunities for growth with existing industry.  Job creation and capital investment combine to benefit the region’s economy.

The IALR Conference Center continues to offer state-of-the-art meeting space, 21st century technology and gourmet cuisine, all with the help of expert staff who practice exceptional customer service.  The Center has served as the venue for national organizations and proudly offers a newly renovated Megabytes Café as a local dining option for the community and visitors.

As Franklin D.  Roosevelt said, “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”  IALR chooses to move forward advancing our region and welcomes others to join our efforts.




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