SOVA Innovation Hub and Longwood secure GO Virginia grant to boost regional entrepreneurship

SOVA Innovation Hub

A major new grant award announced today will lay the foundation for a long-term economic recovery from the pandemic’s effects by focusing on entrepreneurship training, youth entrepreneurship, and increasing access to capital.

The GO Virginia state board announced a grant award of $449,000 to the SOVA Innovation Hub and the Longwood University Office of Community and Economic Development for a robust training initiative that will build capacity and connections. The two-year program will train 200 entrepreneurs. Dozens of new businesses and jobs are expected to be created as a result. Businesses in the region will also be positioned for more investment and small business financing opportunities, which will spur more growth.

“We are proud to support this program, which aims to drive long-term development of the rural entrepreneurship ecosystem in Region 3,” says Randy Lail, Region 3 Council chairman. “Business works best when it works together, and this plan will deepen collaboration across the area, leading to a stronger economic recovery over the next five years and beyond.”

The $449,000 in GO Virginia funds will be paired with matching and leveraged funds for a total project budget of $819,000 to cover training costs, outreach, planning, consulting, and administration. This project will benefit all 15 Region 3 localities. Also included are the public school systems in Cumberland and Prince Edward counties, where youth entrepreneurship programs will initially be targeted.

“Our region needs to continue building entrepreneurial capacity – particularly with the intention to improve equity – and this program will be a key piece of this process,” explains Lauren Mathena, director of Economic Development and Community Engagement, MBC. “We’re excited to be helping a diverse group of entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds, communities, age ranges and experience levels through this program.”

The project is one piece of a larger strategy designed to spur economic growth, the Region 3 Entrepreneur & Innovation Investment Strategy.  Developed by the team of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) and the Longwood Office of Community and Economic Development (LOCED), the strategy provides a framework to utilize resources to invest in projects that support business formation in the region.

The Region 3 strategy features six key goals:

  • Connect entrepreneurship resources
  • Support existing business growth and innovation
  • Develop entrepreneurship training programs to nurture aspiring entrepreneurs
  • Expedite access to capital
  • Expedite broadband expansion
  • Fund and facilitate implementation to ensure flexibility and sustainability

“We are so thankful for the support of GO Virginia, SOVA Innovation Hub, and all of our partners in this,” says Sheri McGuire, Longwood’s Associate VP for Community and Economic Development. “As an institution, Longwood is strategically working to build connections, partnerships and educational outreach to reshape the future of our regional economy.  This collaboration will leverage the experience and grassroots partnerships of our Small Business Development Center in successfully supporting new and innovative business opportunities in our region.”