Preparing tomorrow’s workforce requires a collaborative effort. One of the most exciting examples of the Richmond region’s and Henrico County’s dedication to preparing young people for the future is the newly opened Junior Achievement Finance Park at Libbie Mill Library.
Finance Park is regarded as Junior Achievement’s capstone among the 21 programs the organization offers, teaching middle and high school students financial literacy and money management skills through hands-on, reality-based simulations. In its first year of operation at Libbie Mill, more than 9,000 students from across the region will be offered personal finance training centered on creating a spending plan for a real-life persona. Students will be tasked with the critical thinking and tradeoff decision-making that comes with managing a personal budget, including paying rent, handling unexpected transportation costs, saving for retirement, and other finance hurdles.
In addition to the personal finance education provided, the Libbie Mill Finance Park will help address growing concerns over financial stress in the workplace. A 2016 study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 76 percent of surveyed employers identified significant financial stress among their employees, and a large majority of those employers indicated that the stress is negatively impacting their workforce in absenteeism, inability to focus, and job performance. The early-stage education at the Finance Park is a unique opportunity to equip the region’s future workforce to handle the stress of handling personal finances and improve workplace productivity.
A Collective Effort
Both public and private sector groups have provided financial and volunteer support to the new Finance Park laboratory, including Henrico County, Dominion Energy, and the Virginia529 College Savings Plan.
“Henrico County has been an amazing partner on this project,” said Daphne Swanson, President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia. “They jumped in and elevated its importance with all the surrounding cities and counties. They’ve really led the way – not only supporting their own students, but all the students in the region.”
The Junior Achievement Finance Park, which opened in October 2017, occupies 20,000 square feet of Libbie Mill library. “We’re really fortunate to have this in Henrico County,” said Swanson. “We’ll be able to serve more students and increase and improve technology. The space is dynamic and state of the art. It’s one of the best in the country.”
Thriving in Libbie Mill
While only in the early phases of its development, Libbie Mill is garnering a significant level of attention from its unique mix of uses, including single- and multi-family homes, retail, and commercial office space. In addition to the award-winning library, existing businesses include Marsh & McLennan Agency, Towne Bank, and Shagbark – one of USA Today’s top 20 new restaurants.
The final plans for the Libbie Mill neighborhood include up to 2,000 residences, 200,000 square feet of commercial space, and an office tower designed to attract large employers. “We’re working to cater to those types of businesses by offering food, entertainment, recreation, gyms – all the types of amenities their employees would want nearby,” said Karen Bunch, Regional Property Manager for Libbie Mill developer Gumenick Properties.
A Bright Future
Junior Achievement’s investment in Libbie Mill and in the future of Henrico’s students is an investment in what matters – people and places. The students who study at the Libbie Mill Finance Park today will become part of a workforce that will keep Henrico going – and growing – in the years to come.