New UVA Program Honors Businesses Succeeding in Struggling Communities

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business and Virginia Community Capital along with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership have opened up an exciting award opportunity. Resilience Awards spotlight successful Virginia businesses that are beating the odds in economically challenged communities through demonstrated economic growth, job creation and community leadership over the past three years.

The competition chooses five Resilience Award winners from a pool of distinguished finalists in the following categories, plus a Chairman’s Award:

  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Micro Business (less than 5 employees)
  • Retail/Wholesale
  • Service

tayloemurphyAll six winners will receive a full scholarship to attend a Darden Executive Education program to help grow and advance their businesses. All applicants – not just winners – will also be eligible for business development assistance from Darden MBA students. Applications are now open through 17 August. If your business is still operating and meets the below qualifications, we invite you to reapply. Also, as an influential member of the business resilience community, we welcome your help to get the word out.

Businesses that qualify:

  • Are located in a community facing pressing economic challenges (with high poverty, high unemployment and low self-employment). Qualifying ZIP codes can be found here.
  • Have been in business for three years and can show growth
  • Have more than one employee
  • Can demonstrate support for their community

The award will be presented at Virginia Community Capital’s 2018 Learning Exchange coming up in Richmond on December 14.

American Inno Launches Richmond Website

American Inno, the Charlotte, NC-based digital media and events company, has added Richmond, VA to the roster of markets that it now covers. Richmond Inno is “committed to covering and connecting the people, companies, trends and topics that are driving and defining RVA’s startup and tech communities.” The new publication will offer four main products: a twice-weekly newsletter, events & meetups, comprehensive resource directories, and data on entrepreneurship and innovation.

In terms of its journalistic approach, the editors say, “In every market we’re in, we’re in awe of the founders, entrepreneurs and executives that are driving their local innovation economies forward and pledge to hustle as hard as they do, keeping our communities connected, informed and growing. We love to tell stories about the people behind the companies, ideas and organizations that are shaping the present and future of the Richmond business landscape.”

American Inno’s move into Richmond is sponsored by Activation Capital, the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem hub based at the Virginia BioTech Park in downtown. The partnership will host a Richmond Inno kickoff event on August 30 hosted by Startup Virginia at the 1717 Innovation Center.

Greater Richmond SBDC to close in August

The Virginia Small Business Development Center Network has announced the impending closure of the Greater Richmond SBDC. Launched in 1989 with the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce (now known as ChamberRVA), the SBDC delivered a variety of management assistance services to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs in Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, Richmond and surrounding areas.

According to Jody Keenan, State Director of the Virginia SBDC Network says, “The Greater Richmond SBDC at ChamberRVA will be closed effective August 1, 2018 and business assistance for Richmond area small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs will be coordinated by the Richmond SCORE Chapter.”

In recent years, ChamberRVA and the THRIVE mentor network delivered innovative and impactful assistance, and connected entrepreneurs with seasoned business owners and advisors for one-on-one guidance, education and networking. Federal funds from US Small Business Administration support SBDCs around the country. Running a SBDC requires a cash-match and local offices are required to identify and secure those matching funds.

For four years ChamberRVA provided the local cash match, but sustainable local funding has not been secured. As a result, the Greater Richmond SBDC program will be on hiatus until the financing issue is resolved favorably. The state network – based at George Mason University – will explore a number of alternative solutions to meeting the needs and expectations of small businesses and partners. As Keenan notes, “I regret that circumstances have resulted in this decision and I are committed to identify a solution that will continue to meet the needs of Greater Richmond area businesses.”

SCORE is a volunteer, non-profit organization whose aims to foster a vibrant small business community in the Greater Richmond area through mentoring and education. It provides individual free and confidential business mentoring and low-cost workshops that are tailored to meet the needs of small business. Information about the Richmond chapter of SCORE is available at its website at:

Two state community economic development programs come to an end

With the coming of the new state budget year on July 1, two statewide community economic development funding programs managed by DHCD are no longer active. Both the Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) and Building Collaborative Communities (BCC) programs were left out of the final state budget.

The BEE program provided grants and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations and local governments that plan and implement innovative, comprehensive, strategic and sustainable business development strategies that support local and regional asset-based economic development. The BCC program promoted regional economic collaborations in economically-distressed areas to stimulate job creation, economic development and build community capacity and leadership. The programs were popular with nonprofit organizations and smaller communities and regions attempting to build economic development capacity. Though relatively small in terms of budget dollars, their local impacts were significant.

Restoration of the BEE and BCC programs may be considered during subsequent state budget sessions. In the meantime, DHCD is managing the new multimillion dollar GO Virginia program which is designed to enable regions to collaboratively address economic development challenges and opportunities.

SourceLink Virginia integrates Loudoun SmallBiz’s resource directory listings

In October 2016, the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development re-branded its “Loudoun SourceLink” program to Loudoun SmallBiz. Loudoun was the first US SourceLink affiliate in Virginia, and its county-level site served as the inspiration for what become SourceLink Virginia. Now, the county has wrapped up its annual engagement with the Kansas City-based network and is now providing a “Resource Matrix” of local providers to local entrepreneurs.

The information formerly found via the Loudoun SmallBiz Resource Navigator has now migrated over to SourceLink Virginia. The two programs previously had a data-sharing agreement, and this new move allows the program data collected and developed by Loudoun to continue serving the public via the SourceLink model.

Users can find the 70+ service providers assisting Loundoun entrepreneurs at

National University Economic Development event kicks off in Richmond

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is holding a major summit next week on the campus of VCU in Richmond, VA. University economic development, innovation and community engagement leaders who are part of the APLU Council on Engagement and Outreach (CEO) and APLU Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity (CICEP) will gather from June 25-28 to focus on the theme of “Creative Placemaking for Healthy Communities.”

This national meeting will explore creative placemaking in action via university partnerships in the arts, health and innovation. Through presentations, interactive sessions, and field experiences around the city, summit attendees will gain new insights into how public research universities can serve as key anchor institutions and leverage innovative and interdisciplinary strategies to address complex social and economic challenges facing their communities. Learn more about the CEO-CICEP Joint Summer Meeting at:

Gov. Northam Announces Designation of 212 Federal Opportunity Zones

From the office of Governor Ralph Northam:

Governor Northam today announced that the U.S. Department of Treasury has officially designated 212 Virginia Qualified Opportunity Zones. Governor Northam submitted 212 nominations in April, which represented the maximum number of zones the Governor was able to nominate under the new federal tax tool that targets low-income census tracts.

“I am pleased that all of the 212 nominated Opportunity Zones have been accepted,” said Governor Northam. “We focused on local, regional, and state priorities, as well as Virginia’s diverse geography and economic opportunities, to strategically select a balance of zones that align with other state and local economic development and revitalization efforts. My administration is committed to maximizing this important federal tool to strengthen our local and state economic development efforts and ensure Virginia is at the forefront of attracting new Opportunity fund investments.”

The Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that passed last December included provisions for a new revitalization tool, the Opportunity Zone and Opportunity Fund. The zones and funds will allow investors to receive tax benefits on currently unrealized capital gains that are invested through Opportunity Funds in eligible census tracts designated as Qualified Opportunity Zones. The rules associated with qualification of Opportunity Investment Funds and Qualified Opportunity Investments must be written at the federal level and are expected to be formalized later this calendar year.

“The Opportunity Zone program is another tool for the Commonwealth to encourage economic development and revitalization in all regions of Virginia,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Virginia’s Opportunity Zones are already areas of significant effort and focus at the state and local level, and with the designation as Qualified Opportunity Zones, they will be poised to attract additional private investments.”

Click here for a link to the Virginia Opportunity Zone website, and click here for a map of Virginia’s Qualified Opportunity Zones.

New “Virginia Founders Fund” to invest in Diverse Entrepreneurs

Today, Gov. Ralph Northam announced the creation of a new seed investment fund to increase venture capital access for underrepresented entrepreneurs in Virginia. The Virginia Founders Fund will be managed by the Commonwealth’s lead innovation agency, the Center for Innovative Technology. A copy of the press release sent out by the Governor’s Office is below:

RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam today announced the creation of the Virginia Founders Fund, a new seed-stage fund that increases access to venture capital in Virginia. The fund, administered by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), promotes further collaboration and support for regionally based innovation initiatives and increases investment opportunities for Virginia-based entrepreneurs traditionally underrepresented in venture capital.  The Virginia Founders Fund is dedicated to investments in minorities, women, and veterans across the Commonwealth, or other entrepreneurs located in regions outside of Northern Virginia.

“This investment fund will expand opportunities for startups throughout the Commonwealth, and place a priority on veteran, minority, and women-owned businesses,” said Governor Northam. “We are proud of Virginia’s diverse economy – geographically and demographically. The Virginia Founders Fund will make it easier for our budding entrepreneurs to find the backing they need, and help strengthen the Commonwealth’s position as a premier location for entrepreneurship and investment.”

CIT will work with regional startup initiatives, early-stage funds, and accelerator programs across the Commonwealth to identify strategic opportunities for investment and potential co-investment to leverage additional capital.  The fund will focus on software, hardware, life science, cleantech, and technology-enabled services startups with a high potential for growth and ability to generate economic returns for the Commonwealth.

“The Virginia Founders Fund will provide an excellent complement to the Commonwealth’s existing seed and grant investment programs, as well as to the growing number of regionally-based innovation initiatives. The CIT investment team has a proven history of investing in early stage technology startups, helping them grow and succeed in Virginia,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Esther Lee. “We are proud to announce the first pair of investments under this new fund – EdConnective, an instructional coaching service provider based in Richmond and Status Identity, a multi-factor adaptive authentication company based in Northern Virginia. We look forward to the bright futures of these companies and of future investments that will bring new waves of innovation, job creation, and economic growth to the Commonwealth.”

The Virginia Founders Fund will build upon the success of the Center for Innovative Technology’s GAP Fund program, which fills a critical role deploying early-stage investment capital to the next generation of Virginia’s innovative startups. CIT GAP Funds has deployed over $23 million in more than 120 Virginia-based companies since 2004, leveraging this investment to help the startups attract over $600+ million in additional private capital investment, mostly from out-of-state. Investment returns from CIT GAP Funds are being re-deployed into the Virginia economy in the form of the capital backing the Virginia Founders Fund investments.

“Congratulations to both the founders of EdConnective and Status Identity for closing the first investments in our new Virginia Founders Fund. We look forward to working with you both and watching you grow,” said Ed Albrigo, CIT President and CEO. “There are additional entrepreneurs across the Commonwealth that will benefit from this new source of capital and support that this new fund can provide. These entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to leverage funding at a critical stage in their development to compete in today’s competitive landscape. We look forward to working closely with startups, regional startup support initiatives and other private investment funds to provide increased investment and support to these underrepresented communities.” 

SBA holding “Women Veterans & Entrepreneurs” Event in Richmond

On Monday, March 19, the Richmond District office of the US Small Business Administration is holding a “Salute and Celebration of Women Veterans and Women Veteran Entrepreneurs” in Chesterfield County at the new North Courthouse Library. SBA’s Richmond office serves the vast majority of the Commonwealth except the counties of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun, and cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church which are served by the agency’s Washington, D.C. District Office.

The event will include formal presentations honoring our women veterans followed by several free workshops. Notable speakers and presenters include:

  • Martha Boneta, America First Policies
  • Paul Galanti, Retired Navy Commander
  • Nick Freitas, Virginia House of Delegates
  • Michael Quinn, ProSphere

The free Entrepreneur Workshops will cover a number of business-building topics such as:

  • How to Create an All-star LinkedIn Profile
  • How to use LinkedIn to Enhance Your Business
  • Free is for Me SBA Resources
  • Mind-Body Health

There will be a variety of resource tables featuring organizations that support veteran business-owners including: SBA, SCORE, Women’s Business Center, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Defense, VDACS, etc. The SBA Veterans event will be held at the North Courthouse Road Library, 325 Courthouse Road, North Chesterfield, Virginia 23236. Attendance is free, but space is limited. Advance online registration is required at:

For more information, contact Marci Posey of SBA at 804.253.8906.

Toward Agile Economies?

The landscape for economic development – local, regional and state – in Virginia continues to evolve in fascinating ways. Though primarily concerned with traditional activities such as industrial development, corporate attraction, business retention & expansion, contemporary economic development policy-making and practice has shifted toward an all-inclusive approach that embraces community planning, tourism promotion, entrepreneurship ecosystems, workforce investment and technology innovation. In Virginia, a clear indicator of this phenomenon is the ever-broadening array of subjects – and increasingly diverse cadre of professionals – who comprise the state’s economic development profession.

However, the arena is rather crowded as the Commonwealth has:

  • Over a dozen state agencies spread across five Cabinet secretaries
  • 50+ regional public-sector development systems (EDOs, PDCs, WIBs, etc.)
  • Over 100 cities, counties and towns with economic development departments
  • 300+ organizations supporting local entrepreneurship and innovation
  • 23 public community colleges & 15 public universities now charged with enhancing economic development via increased R&D, workforce development and community engagement

Virginia regularly ranks in the top quartile of states for University R&D, STEM employment and venture capital, and it has a historically friendly business climate with among the lowest rates of corporate taxes, unemployment and unionization. However, a number of lingering issues exist that present ripe opportunities for developing creative solutions:

  • Significant imbalance between “NOVA” and “ROVA” for high-growth & high-tech
  • Entrepreneurship ecosystems are fundamentally local and/or regional
  • Quality of available services matters more than quantity
  • Disconnects between goals of economic developers and needs of entrepreneurs
  • Prevalence of short-term economic development policies & programs with very few long-term strategic efforts

This is the environment into which new projects will step, an environment that requires not just flexibility, but agility. Meeting the demands of the Agile Economy means lifting up and launching programs and initiatives that boost entrepreneurial ecosystems, spark creative placemaking, and leverage social innovations to change the lives of citizens and communities. It mandates harnessing the power of relationships and research to convert ideas into innovation. Welcome to the brave new future of growing relevant, creative and agile economies.