Old Dominion University's Nancy L. Grden was recently named one of Virginia Business' "100 People to Watch: Rainmakers" for 2021.

"Through their outreach, expertise, marketing and incentives, these are the professionals who attract and grow businesses, adding to the commonwealth's wealth," the publication wrote.

Grden, associate vice president of ODU's Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, was named in September as the initial executive director of the new Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth & Innovation (HRMC), which aims to expand the role of maritime innovation in the region's economic development. Grden also will serve as special assistant to the president of Old Dominion for maritime initiatives. The HRMC will launch in 2021.

"We have an amazing set of opportunities and assets that are right in front of our face," she told Virginia Business, "and we tend to shy away from them."

She cited shipbuilding and repair, the Navy, offshore wind, transatlantic cables and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion, as well as innovations with unmanned vehicles and cybersecurity and other areas.

A Pittsburgh native and former bank executive, Grden said the collaborative will be "action-oriented," working to coordinate diverse initiatives and seeking to inject more innovation and entrepreneurship into the region's maritime sector.

"The cool thing is really bringing all that together," she said.

Grden, who is also executive director of ODU's Strome Entrepreneurial Center, previously served as co-chair of ODU's Economic Development Catalyst Task Force and has a track record of leadership for major strategic and innovation initiatives across multiple sectors. She is an experienced founder and entrepreneur with companies such as Genomind and former executive with Amerigroup and Bank of America. She also serves as chair of 757 Angels, as well as executive committee member of organizations such as 757 Accelerate, Norfolk Innovation Corridor, 757 Resilience and Recovery Action Framework.

She will also co-lead with ODU faculty one of the HRMC's initiatives - to position ODU as a globally recognized academic institution focused on the maritime ecosystem for degree programs, research and innovation.

The HRMC was established to provide thought leadership and alignment to pursue opportunities resulting in long-term economic development and innovation for the Hampton Roads maritime ecosystem. Its other areas of focus include Navy sustainment,offshore wind, resilience, talent pipelines and supply chains. Its board of directors includes more than 40 leaders representing business, maritime associations, the Navy, the public sector and state and regional economic development.

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