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Trani's New Think Tank

Former VCU chief rallies group to study region's future.

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Virginia Commonwealth University's former president, Eugene Trani, is launching a nonprofit think tank dedicated to studying and researching potential projects for the Richmond region. He calls it Richmond's Future.

The plan is to produce two to three studies each year “exploring issues that are crucial to the long-term prosperity and well-being of the entire region and its citizens, not to single jurisdictions or individual groups,” according to a document being circulated among potential investors and obtained by Style Weekly.

Projects could include exploring how the region could develop “21st century infrastructure” or how to build “collaborative processes, businesses, schools and community colleges,” the document reveals.

Studying the region's future has become a crowded field. As the document notes, Trani's organization will “enhance efforts that are presently undertaken by the Greater Richmond Chamber, the Greater Richmond Partnership, the [Capital Region Collaborative], the [Richmond Regional Planning Commission], and the Federal Reserve Bank. Richmond's Future has the endorsement of all of these organizations.”

Trani estimates the think tank will operate on a $150,000 budget and has approached the Community Foundation and corporate sponsors for money. He'll act as executive director and chairman of the board of directors, which includes presidents from VCU, Virginia Union University, the University of Richmond, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and a who's who of execs from law firms, hospitals, banks and utilities. Style was unable to reach Trani, who was out of the country.

Former VCU dean and political science professor Bob Holsworth will co-chair a research council with Venture Richmond Executive Director Jack Berry. They'll be joined by local heavyweights including Frank Atkinson, chairman of McGuireWoods' lobbying arm, Kelly O'Keefe, executive director of the VCU Brandcenter, and Lane Ramsey, Chesterfield County's former administrator. (Holsworth and Ramsey are partners at the government consultancy DecideSmart.)

A 50-member advisory council will help steer new project ideas and includes John Sarvay, a local strategic planning consultant and blogger.

“To some degree it's a list of the usual suspects,” Sarvay says, “but I'm also relieved to see some names of folks who bring a fair amount of candor and independence. … Well, like me, I guess.” The group also includes VCU urban planning professor John Accordino and John Moeser, a senior fellow at UR's Bonner Center for Civic Engagement.

The first project is planned to begin this fall.

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