Eastern’s ‘NewBiz Launch Pad’ To Support New Business Start-Ups

Think a business can’t start at a community college? Think again.  In honor of Global Entrepreneurship November 17 through 23, Eastern WV Community and Technical College announced several initiatives it is launching to help spur new businesses, economic development and entrepreneurship.

Last year, Eastern became part of an elite group of colleges selected by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Association of American Community Colleges to join the Slingshot Network, a group of only 20 community colleges from across the nation focusing on approaches to entrepreneurship and workforce and economic development.  Members aim to make community colleges ‘a front door’ to entrepreneurship in their respective communities.

“Nowhere is there a better place to be a self-starter or innovator than in the Potomac Highlands region of West Virginia,” said Joe Kapp Entrepreneur-in-Resident at Eastern.  “And there is no better partner for self-starters and innovators than Eastern WV Community and Technical College.”

Over the past twelve months, Eastern has received competitive grants from a variety of funders to focus on entrepreneurship and establish the Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (IREED). The funders, both public and private, including the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Coleman Foundation, the WV Community and Technical College System and the Kauffman Foundation, all recognize the value of entrepreneurship in energizing the rural economy.

“NewBiz Launch Pad”

The grants will support three primary IREED projects that include: contracting an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Eastern; establishing a business accelerator in Wardensville; and commissioning an in-depth study of the Potomac Highlands economy to identify ongoing, upcoming and future areas for strong economic growth.

As Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Kapp will work to kick-start entrepreneurship across the region and inject creative thinking to otherwise traditional economic development models.  In addition, he will collaborate with existing area businesses, teach entrepreneurship, identify opportunities for new business development and help businesses get off the ground.  

Eastern is also testing a NewBiz Launchpad accelerator in Wardensville.  The building includes a retail floor facing Wardensville’s Main Street. Adaptable to many different kinds of businesses, the accelerator also provides mentoring and co-working areas for eight to twelve start-ups, and meeting and conference room spaces for training, lectures and other purposes.

“Wardensville is a primary gateway to the Potomac Highlands from Washington D.C. and other major markets,” said Mayor Barbara Ratcliff, Mayor of Wardensville.  “We have a unique opportunity to utilize this gateway to drive further new business and economic development.

“We have so much to offer, from convenience to major markets, access to high-speed internet and beautiful scenery. It is a great place to start a business,” she said.

As the driving force behind IREED, Eastern will also sponsor an in-depth Potomac Highlands economic analysis to provide insights into areas that are ripe for greater economic growth. The college has identified Economic Modeling Specialist Incorporated as a proven research firm in the area of labor market and economic analysis.

Region’s Unique Appeal

“EMSI will collect and process data to illuminate many aspects of employment and human resources,” said Eastern president Chuck Terrell, “and identify the primary factors driving eastern West Virginia’s economy.”  As it examines employment and population growth trends and commuting patterns, and analyzes the workforce across a variety of factors, the planned research will highlight the most important industries for the regions' economic vitality.

“The study will also investigate the qualities and features that make our region unique,” Terrell emphasized, “and identify additional industries and investors who would find our geography and workforce uniquely attractive for start-up, expansion or relocation.”

“Because of Corridor H, and the Fiber Optic ring developed by Hardy Telecommunications, and our closeness to D.C., northern Virginia and western Maryland,” he pointed out, “the Potomac Highlands is in a sweet spot to recruit and support small business development.”

For more information about Eastern’s financial aid opportunities, programs of study, workforce training and community education and events, call 304-434-8000, or toll-free: 877-982-2322; or check the College’s website: “www.easternwv.edu”.

Contact Joe Kapp at jkapp@eastern.wvnet.edu for more information regarding entrepreneurship opportunities.