Hunter Henkel Photography
Greg Wingfield (center) at the Greater Richmond Partnership's 20th anniversary celebration.
When the 2015 fiscal year closes, so, too, will an era at the Greater Richmond Partnership. After 20 years, founding president and CEO Greg Wingfield will retire on June 30 from the economic development body that recruits companies to the region.
During Wingfield’s time at GRP, the organization has lured more than 450 businesses that have invested more than $10.7 billion in the region. His successor, Barry Matherly, was named in January.
Richmond magazine caught up with Wingfield to discuss tapping into the region’s creativity, forgetting past failures and swearing off airplanes and hotels.
RM: What’s the next best thing or business that Richmond needs?
Wingfield: I’d like to see us build on the creative industries that are starting to emerge here. I think we have the culture to attract the next Apple, the next technology-related company because of the entrepreneurship and creativity that is in this community. A lot of it is fostered by VCU, the art school, the Brandcenter, the business school. We’ve got over 70,000 college students here, and about 14,000 or 15,000 graduate every year. That’s part of the attraction here. Why not continue to live here if the right job is here? The creativeness of the area and those types of jobs, I’ve seen a huge swing in that direction in the last decade. Go to Manchester. Go to the Bottom. Go to Scott’s Addition. We’ve got authentic places where people like to live, work and play in. It’s not a Disneyworld like Charlotte is trying to put together [in its central area known as] Uptown. This has been an authentic place going back several hundred years. Now we’re repurposing a lot of those buildings to continue sort of the next generation of entrepreneurship.
RM: What does the region need less of?
Wingfield: Reflection. We need to reflect less and look forward more.
RM: Why do you feel that way?
Wingfield: That’s kind of been Richmond’s nature. We always seem to be looking back. Every time we try a new project, somebody will say "Look what happened to Sixth Street Marketplace. We don’t want another Sixth Street Marketplace if we put the stadium down there. That might just turn into a white elephant." Well, that was 25 years ago. Why is that still in people’s conversation? If you don’t try and do stuff, you’re going to keep repeating the past. So I think, less reflection, more forward thinking.
RM: Who’s your favorite local politician?
Wingfield: (Laughs.) Not going to answer that.
RM: What locality is most difficult to work with?
Wingfield: (Laughs.) Keep going.
RM: What did you sacrifice to spend 20 years doing this job?
Wingfield: A lot of money. You don’t get rich in economic development.
RM: What’s your retirement project or hobby going to be?
Wingfield: I’m working on a couple of contracts, staying in town doing some consulting for a couple of different entities … I’m a lousy golfer. I don’t like it. I want to keep working. I want to get off airplanes, get out of hotels.
You can read more about Wingfield’s career in the June issue of Richmond magazine.