The team of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) and the Longwood University Office of Community and Economic Development (LOCED) have been awarded a $100,000 grant from GO Virginia to develop the Region 3 Entrepreneur & Innovation Investment Strategy (EII). By Spring 2020 this team will present a formal recommendation to the Region 3 Council on ways it can support and utilize its resources to invest in projects that improve business formation in the Region.

As early as July 2017, the Region 3 Council identified a number of innovation partners in its footprint and utilized these partners as part of its stakeholder group for input into the original Growth & Diversification Plan that was completed in 2017. In 2018 and in concert with the State GO Virginia Board and its technology consulting firm TEConomy, the Council created a standing Innovation Committee to lead stakeholder sessions on the TEConomy report, which resulted in an assessment of the status of innovation and business formation in the Region 3 footprint.

MBC and LOCED bring exceptional strengths to lead this effort. Each organization includes individuals with direct entrepreneurial experience. From Mid-Atlantic Broadband, this experience includes its deep connectivity with Microsoft and the Microsoft TechSpark Program and its staff engagement with innovation and entrepreneurship organizations outside the Region 3 footprint including Startup VA, Lighthouse Labs and RVA Works. For the Longwood Office of Economic and Community Development, its experience includes its leadership across the Region in supporting Community Business Launches, its deep and recognized business planning expertise through its Small Business Development Center, and its existing geographic coverage of the entire Region 3 footprint with staffing and programs. These two entities also bring a level of technical skills that are unique, including business research, mapping capabilities, and demonstrated use of electronic communication platforms to engage broad stakeholder audiences.

“It is exciting to see the breadth and depth of regional collaboration from these two experienced partners,” Region 3 GO Virginia Council Chairman Randy Lail said. “We are even more pleased that the State GO Virginia Board concurred with our recommendation to use the knowledge gained from the TEConomy report and advance it into a thoughtful strategy. We know that the lead partners will be engaging as many stakeholders as possible and will create a viable strategy for business formation that will also help us with talent retention and attraction, two areas of focus for our Regional Council.”

The MBC/LOCED team brings strong skillsets in project management, stakeholder engagement, event planning, research, business analysis, and entrepreneurial program management. Specifically, LOCED skillsets include a track record of successfully supporting Community Business Launches, analyzing business formation plans and scale-up plans, connecting entrepreneurs to diverse resources, and offering training and mentoring as part of its core competencies. Four of its team members are active entrepreneurs, bringing practical experience into this project. MBC’s team also includes individual entrepreneurs as well as a founding member of the Danville/Pittsylvania IDEA Fest pitch competition. MBC is also directly connected to a significant corporate partner, Microsoft, through its TechSpark program and through the SOVA Innovation Hub.

“The Regional Council has high hopes that this project team will involve as many of our regional innovation partners as possible in developing this strategy,” said Region 3 Vice-Chairman Charley Majors. “Creative thinking, and building impactful partnerships is the way that rural Virginia can successfully create sustainable economies, and this is an example of rural leadership in action.”

“We are excited to be partnering with the Longwood team,” said Lauren Mathena, Project Manager for the EII Project. “And we are eager to use our resources to complement the knowledge that MBC brings to this effort,” said Sheri McGuire, Associate Vice-President for Longwood’s Office of Community & Economic Development. She continued “We believe that the deep resources of Region 3, and the partners who will help us with this planning effort, will result in a well-designed strategy for this Council to use.”