Ask Longwood SBDC Eastern Region Director Vandy Jones why he developed an interest in helping small business owners, and you’ll get an unexpected answer.
“You might say a tornado brought me to it,” Jones says with a smile.
On the surface, Jones’ resume doesn’t read like a whirlwind career.
After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BS in business administration, he worked as a branch manager for Sovran Bank in Petersburg for three years.
“When I worked at the bank, the economic development folks would come in with clients,” he relates. “Then I would work with them to help them get loans.”
In 1993 when an opening in Petersburg’s Economic Development Department was advertised, Jones applied and was subsequently hired as economic development project manager for the City of Petersburg.
Shortly after Jones took the job, the most powerful tornado in Virginia history, an F4, hit the Tri-City area of Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Prince George County and Hopewell. The hardest-hit area was in Petersburg’s Old Towne.
“I started that job in Petersburg right after the tornado hit,” Jones recalls. “I mainly worked with downtown businesses and helped them rebuild. That’s how I became familiar with the Crater SBDC of Longwood University in Petersburg. During that time and later as county administrator for Sussex County, I continued to work with the SBDC.”
Now as director of Longwood SBDC’s Eastern Region, Jones will build on that foundation several decades in the making. He’s based in Petersburg at the Crater SBDC of Longwood University office which operates under a cooperative agreement with the Crater Planning District Commission.
“Over time, I connected with economic developers, bankers and chambers of commerce in the localities that make up the Eastern Region, so I’m familiar with the area,” he adds.
Jones is working on identifying existing clients so he can get to know them. He also compiled a resource list of local banks and other financial sources. As a former banker, Jones is uniquely qualified to assist clients with financial needs and advice.
“Financing is very important for all small business owners,” he adds.
“You won’t find me in the office that much at first,” Jones concludes. “My game plan is to get out into the communities and introduce myself.”
If that sounds like a whirlwind game plan, it is — and that’s exactly how Vandy Jones likes it.