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CBJ: GO Virginia seeks plan for Venture Hub to help local entrepreneurs

CBJ: GO Virginia seeks plan for Venture Hub to help local entrepreneurs

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The GO Virginia Region 9 Council is working to obtain a business plan to foster entrepreneurship and help fledgling businesses in the Charlottesville area.

In January, the council approved a planning grant for up to $50,000. A request for proposals went out in mid-March and responses were due April 1. A contract is scheduled to be awarded later this month.

The plan ultimately will give recommendations to help establish a Venture Hub, which is the current working name of a space or group of spaces with programming for entrepreneurs.

Tom Click, chairman of the council and owner of Patriot Industries, an aluminum and stainless steel company in Louisa County, said resources and people he knows now from GO Virginia could have made a difference for him.

“It’s very difficult to start a business to begin with, and when you don’t have space or that ecosystem approach that tries to pull together all of these resources, it makes it even harder,” he said. “Entrepreneurs are pretty durable and they’re going to push through and try to get stuff done; I think this will just make it a lot easier.”

Click said he thinks the Venture Hub has the potential to bring entrepreneurs in the region “up to the next level.”

“This is something intended to help the people that have those ideas understand the resources that are available to them and also provide some of those,” he said.

GO Virginia Region 9 includes the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange and Rappahannock.

Two meetings will take place over the spring and an interim report with anticipated findings, best practices and a recommendations summary is due in June.

An in-person presentation of the final business plan is scheduled to take place in September or October.

Shannon Holland, the GO Virginia director for the region, said the plan will use insights from three assessments that have been completed since the council began.

A growth and diversification plan for the region recommended that the area develop a vision for entrepreneurship; create more wet lab space; and support development and operations of an entrepreneurial assistance program.

A regional entrepreneurial assessment, completed by the firm TEConomy, recommended that the area support advancement of integrated accelerators/incubators/co-working hubs across the region; provide a “front door” in the region for entrepreneurs to receive coordinated help from service providers; and develop stronger idea-generating programming.

“We are lining things up, getting an expert to advise us what is the best way to [build a foundation] for our region based on the resources we have here,” Holland said. “A group of economic developers had been meeting in Charlottesville/Albemarle and saw the TEConomy report — it recommends creating a gateway or ‘front door’ for an entrepreneurship ecosystem so anyone anywhere can at least know where to go to ask the questions to figure out what they need next.”

Allison Wrabel is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7261, awrabel@dailyprogress.com or @craftypanda on Twitter.

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