County, towns work together in economic development effort

Published 6:29 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lunenburg County — with the support of Kenbridge and Victoria — is applying for a series of grants to help develop entrepreneurs.

The first is a $15,000 planning grant with no monetary match that would be used for establishing the infrastructure to help new businesses grow.

The Building Entrepreneurial Economies grant is offered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The county and towns applied for that grant in May and expect to be notified in September whether or not it was awarded to them. If it is awarded to the localities, an incubator system for new businesses will be developed with the funds.

The other grants would require a local monetary contribution as well as “in-kind” services and labor. Both of these grants “would truly be targeted toward developing entrepreneurs,” said Beverley Hawthorne, the county’s community development director.

“Neither town would probably qualify to receive a grant alone, but having them work together increases the likelihood of the community receiving the grants,” Hawthorne said.

The additional parts of the BEE grant includes plans that would strengthen efforts to encourage entrepreneurship, including an organization of retirees who could share their knowledge and skills with the new entrepreneurs.

Kenbridge Community Center, which already houses town offices and an auditorium promoted as a place for concerts and plays, has space where small businesses could open, Hawthorne said.

Additionally, a leadership program could be established to help encourage younger people and to help identify entrepreneurs, she said.

The grants could also open the door to surveys to gauge what, and where, assistance is needed.

One survey could be of people interested in becoming entrepreneurs and how the county can help the endeavor by connecting them to support networks such as classes through the Virginia’s Growth Alliance and Longwood Small Business Development Center, Hawthorne said.

Both Kenbridge and Victoria agreed to go in on the grant and to appoint representatives to the committee who would oversee the program.