Employee Spotlight: Patrick O'Brien
Mark Twain said the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Patrick O'Brien, specialist in the Office of Economic Development (OED) is an English major turned economic developer who always finds the right words in his work. The results are lighting up smiles among OED’s clients.
Patrick earned his B.A. in English with a history and philosophy minor from James Madison University in 2003. He completed a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at Virginia Tech in May 2008, earning an Economic Development Certificate while completing the degree. Office of Economic Development director John Provo recalls Patrick as a student in his economic development studio course, which puts graduate student on the front lines, managing real economic development research projects. ”He had the capacity to calmly juggle multiple demands from competing voices in the project and deliver timely results his fellow students and the project clients appreciated.”
On staff with OED since 2008, Patrick was the lead author for a $3.8 million federal grant supporting job training and curricular development in green jobs and energy efficient building construction. He artfully blended the interests of multiple university, community college, industry, and nonprofit partners into words that earned one of 25 of these grants awarded nationally. Patrick continues to work on the CREATES project, currently working to bring together the voices of all of these partners in a sustainability plan connecting their shared interests in continuing activity initiated under the grant.
Patrick develops and conducts projects with an incredible range of partners in small towns, regions, and nationally. His areas of expertise include analysis of physical development and redevelopment, workforce development, regional economic development planning, and statistical and data analysis. Recent projects include leading a team conducting a feasibility study and operational analysis for the reuse of the former Natural Bridge Station High School in Rockbridge County, assessing the economic impact of rest-stop area commercialization nationally, and mapping fiscal assets for early childhood education programs in the Lynchburg area. He is currently working with partners from Virginia Tech’s Urban Affairs and Planning program on economic development strategies for southeast Washington, D.C. The community is interested in developing new economic opportunities in its impoverished neighborhood related to the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security campus, the largest federal construction project in the National Capitol Region since the construction of the Pentagon.
In all of these efforts Patrick delivers not just technical expertise, but also the skillful translation of his knowledge and the knowledge of other university partners. He deploys that on the ground working side by side with communities to develop real opportunities. He represents some of the best of what Virginia Tech and Outreach have to offer.