The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research was honored with a regional Innovator Award as part of the Rising Together: Summit on the Rural South conference held in Point Clear, Ala., in June. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley presented Tim Franklin, executive director, and Nancy Franklin, senior director of Technology and Programs, with an Innovator award at the opening session of the conference. Each year Southern Growth Policies Board, a regional public policy think tank, recognizes innovative programs in the South that are improving the quality of life in the region with the Innovator Awards.

The focus of the 2005 Innovator Awards was on rural development. The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), located in Danville was recognized for its work to develop an innovation-driven economy in the Southside region of Virginia. In partnership with Virginia Tech, IALR houses four cutting-edge research centers and a number of academic and outreach programs.

“The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research is a dynamic development initiative designed to help transition Southside Virginia from a manufacturing-based economy to one that promotes research, high-tech jobs, and innovation,” said Mark R. Warner, governor of Virginia. “The Innovator Award recognizes the amazing ground that has already been covered in Southside and pays tribute to a rural development model that can benefit other areas of the commonwealth and the rest of the nation.”

Virginia Tech faculty are creating world-class centers of research in advanced polymers, motorsports, unmanned systems, and high value horticulture and forestry at IALR, and academic programs are available allowing students to work on graduate degrees in a number of different fields. Outreach programs also serve small businesses, and professionals to help raise the overall skill level of the region. The Institute Conference Center, the IALR’s state-of the-art conference facility, also is attracting many high-level business conferences to the area.

“The IALR is putting in place an aggressive plan focused on the economic revival of a region that faces high unemployment and economic uncertainty,” Franklin said. “This Innovator recognition from the Southern Growth Policies Board continues to validate the model for economic transformation that has been initiated in Southside Virginia.”

The 2005 Innovator Award winners include a collection of public, private, academic, and nonprofit organizations that were recognized for their fresh approaches to solving problems and creating opportunity in the South’s rural communities. More than 200 programs from the Southern region were nominated. A regional panel of experts chose 14 winners, one from each of Southern Growth Policies Board member states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. For a complete list of winners and to view profiles of their programs, visit the website.

The Southern Growth Policies Board is a non-partisan public policy think tank based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Formed by the region’s governors in 1971, Southern Growth Policies Board develops and advances visionary economic development policies by providing a forum for collaboration among a diverse cross-section of the region’s governors, legislators, business and academic leaders and the economic- and community-development sectors. Supported by the governments of 13 Southern states and Puerto Rico, Southern Growth provides its members, and the region, with authoritative research, discussion forums and pilot projects in the areas of technology and innovation, globalization, workforce development, community development, civic engagement and leadership.