Entrepreneur workshop a success

Published 10:49 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A workshop held recently in Lunenburg for business owners saw full parking lots and growing enthusiasm from residents, Victoria Town Manager Rodney Newton reported during Thursday’s Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The workshop, held Feb. 13 at the Lunenburg County airport, was part of an initiative from Lunenburg County and the towns of Kenbridge and Victoria. The towns are participating in the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)’s Community Business Launch (CBL) grant.

The CBL, according to the DHCD website, “assist(s) communities in taking a systems approach to defining and pursuing an asset-based small business development strategy.”

Newton said during the meeting that the workshop was meant to generate interest from the community about the grant. The grant would apply to entrepreneurs interested in starting new businesses, as well as current business owners in Lunenburg interested in expanding.

Newton said approximately 104 new small businesses have appeared as a result of the grant. He said South Boston has participated in the grant program and said Chilhowie, an area similar in size to the towns of Victoria and Kenbridge, saw eight new businesses come as a result of the grant.

“We look at this as an opportunity between the county and the two towns to hopefully get some new businesses,” Newton said.

Newton said DHCD representative Jessica Hupp, during the meeting, showcased communities that participated in the program and saw success with generating small business.

Newton said he himself was surprised by the success of the Feb. 13 meeting.

“I went into the meeting expecting it to be myself, Robyn (Fowler), Glenn (Millican), representatives of the CRC (Commonwealth Regional Council) and two to three other citizens,” Newton said. “We ran out of parking at the airport. We ran out of seats in the airport terminal, and everybody stayed … to ask questions.”

“I think there is a lot of interest there,” Newton said about the program.

According to a previous Dispatch report, a component of the program would be that the towns would organize a small business competition. Similar to Shark Tank, entrepreneurs would pitch their ideas to a board of judges. The winners of the competition would be determined by the businesses that best fit what residents most need, and would receive grant funding.

Newton said the grant proposal is being done by the CRC. The proposal would need to be filed by March 1.

Newton requested a letter of support from the county to include with the grant application.

Members of the board of supervisors voted to approve a letter of support for the program.

Brown’s Store District Supervisor Mike Hankins said he has been involved with the grant process in the region and praised the grant’s success in Emporia, Clarksville and South Boston.

“It is a great opportunity for our community, and people in our community, for their economic development and to bring some jobs in,” Hankins said.

Love’s Mill Supervisor Edward Pennington asked what determines how much grant funding each new business could receive.

Newton said if the county receives funding, a steering committee would be created to determine guidelines for the funding.

For those with questions about the meeting or grant, contact Newton at (434) 696-2343 and Robyn Fowler, Kenbridge Town Manager at (434) 676-2452.