Entrepreneurs have the ability to change their personal economy and the economy of their community through the development and sale of their products and services. Yet, there is little help available to help those with an idea to learn how to be successful, enter the marketplace, and prosper.

In 2018, GO Virginia conducted a study by TEConomy on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in each of the regions. In Region 6, the report recommended activities in five distinct program areas to help grow the ecosystem.

  1. Development entrepreneurial pipeline
  2. Improve and expand “high-growth” startup programming
  3. Improve and expand “local-growth” startup programming
  4. Develop a continuum of capital
  5. Focus on technology commercialization and industry engagement with region R&D institutions

The consensus from the region was that entrepreneurial programs, assistance, facilities and access to capital needed to be expanded throughout the region.

The entrepreneurial expansion needed to be both programmatically and geographically since there are significant gaps in the types of services available and access to those services. Expansion of youth entrepreneurship programs, expanded incubator/accelerator/co-working facilities, expanded SBDC services, additional business plan competitions, and additional financial resources are needed.

Recommended Ways to Improve Entrepreneurial Development and Startup Ecosystems:

  1. Expand Youth Entrepreneurship Programs in K-12 and Community Colleges – Establish an entrepreneurial culture in local school divisions, vocational and technical training facilities, and the community colleges.
  2. Expand the Mary Washington Small Business Development Center Programs –Much of the Middle Peninsula is either underserved or not served by the existing small business development center network. The University of Mary Washington, its SBDC and affiliated organizations provide the most comprehensive array of business development services. These services are in high demand and are not evenly available across the region.
  3. Expand “Innovation Centers” Throughout the Region – The University of Mary Washington EagleWorks Business Incubation Center provides incubation/acceleration and co-working facilities for start-up and small businesses. This facility is critical in accelerating the growth of small growing companies throughout the region. The success of this facility illustrates the demand for expansion of similar facilities in other areas of the region.
  4. Expand the Financing Resources Offered by the Rappahannock Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) – Since 1983, REDCO has been committed to sustaining the growth, development, and expansion of small businesses throughout Virginia as a non-profit commercial lender. REDCO should be encouraged to expand its financial offerings and services to include a suite of capital products and services from micro-loan products to access to equity capital.
  5. Create “Opportunity Zone Funds” – Region 6 has eight Opportunity Zones in which private investment can be used to revitalize these areas through a special capital gains tax. It is recommended that efforts be made to establish local Opportunity Funds to help finance projects in the eight Opportunity Zones.
  6. Conduct Business Plan Competitions – Business plan competitions and “shark tank” type programs have proven highly successful in helping to launch or accelerate businesses that have significant growth potential. While these programs infuse equity into the winner’s pockets, they also identify potential companies that may not be the winner but offer significant growth potential. It is recommended that organizations throughout the region sponsor business plan competitions or similar programs targeted at businesses in the priority growth clusters.
  7. Expand Participating Intermediary Agreements (PIA) – The numerous research facilities in the Region 6 and in neighboring areas, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Quantico, FBI Training Facility, VIMS, NASA Langley, all offer opportunities for commercialization of the research conducted at these facilities. It is recommended that partnership agreements be made to commercialize the research these institutions are doing and bring them to market.

All of these efforts require joint cooperation between at least two more localities. The recommended ways above are just some ways Region 6 can meet the demands of future companies. However, GO Virginia requires the collaboration of at least two localities, political subdivisions, or public bodies corporate and politic, along with other public or private entities to apply for funding. If you are interested in applying for funding to help close the workforce gap in Region 6, please email Jennifer Morgan at morgan@gwregion.org.