Development Leader Ready To Move On

Sullenberger Was Tireless Promoter Of The Valley

Posted: May 10, 2013

Robin Sullenberger’s been tireless for 13 years in his commitment to the Shenandoah Valley Partnership. Now, he figures it’s time to go. “I’m retirement age, and I’m tired,” he says with a laugh. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Robin Sullenberger (above) “has connections all over the state and certainly used those connections to promote the Valley every chance he had,” says Brian Shull, Harrisonburg’s economic development director.
HARRISONBURG — Those who work with him say Robin Sullenberger’s dedication to the area’s economic development is impressive.

“Tireless” is one word an associate used to describe the outgoing chief executive officer of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, a public-private organization that promotes the area for business and industry.

One needs look no further than the man’s car for evidence of his dedication.

Right now, he drives a Toyota Solara convertible — an end-of-life crisis, he jokes — from his Highland County home to his office on Technology Drive off Mount Clinton Pike in Harrisonburg.

He’s gone through several Toyotas, and it’s no wonder, considering the drive’s about 90 minutes one way, he says.

That’s one hefty commute, but Sullenberger says his affinity for the job outweighs the inconvenience in getting to it.

“I consider it valuable,” he said. “It’s fun …  and I am very fond of the people.”

Though he’s enjoyed his time at the helm of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, Sullenberger says the time has come for him to retire after 13 years on the job.

“I’m retirement age, and I’m tired,” he says, laughing. “No. It’s just time to retire. I’m in good health, and I have a lot of things I want to do.”

Sullenberger, 64, is an outdoorsman and plans to spend time pursuing such interests as fly-fishing and horses.

But he does hope to continue to assist in economic development in the Valley in a smaller role after retiring in August.

Colleagues say his replacement has big shoes to fill.

“He is a tireless advocate for the Shenandoah Valley,” said Brian Shull, Harrisonburg’s economic development director and a member of the partnership’s board of directors. “He has connections all over the state and certainly used those connections to promote the Valley every chance he had.”

One of Sullenberger’s strengths is his ability to develop relationships with a wide variety of people, said Billy Vaughn, director of community development for Rockingham County.

“He’s able to relate to many different individuals and different groups, whether it was a site location consultant, a state legislator, local citizens, business owners, even local elected officials or just the local economic development staff,” said Vaughn, who also is a member of the partnership’s board.

Among projects Sullenberger’s got his fingerprints on is the recruiting of SRI International to the Valley.

He assisted in getting the nonprofit research firm to open a biomedical division at Innovation @ Rockingham, the county’s research park north of Harrisonburg.

For those efforts and others he was named one of 50 most influential Virginians by Virginia Business Magazine in March.

But the Shenandoah Valley Partnership isn’t just about bringing businesses to the area.

Sullenberger also has helped to connect business with higher education for workforce development efforts.

“Higher ed does not exist in a vacuum,” said John Downey, president of Blue Ridge Community College and a partnership board member. “It’s important that we are serving the needs of the community in all sectors of higher education.”

One of Sullenberger’s biggest accomplishments, colleagues say, is spreading the Shenandoah Valley’s reputation as a good place to do business.

“He had a very collaborative approach and reputation and could really get things done and move things along,” said Greg Campbell, manager of Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport and chairman of the partnership’s board. “And he always seemed to know how to get things done.”

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or jhunt@dnronline.com



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