$1.5M in grants to grow entrepreneur support in Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Community Captial Fund (SCCF) Executive Director Debbie Irwin.
Shenandoah Community Captial Fund (SCCF) Executive Director Debbie Irwin.(WVIR)
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 10:36 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) - The Shenandoah Community Capital Fund (SCCF) is getting $1.5 million to grow entrepreneur support and businesses.

The first step of the Build to Scale Grant is creating a regional coalition, which includes coming up with a common language and brand that tells people about all the entrepreneurs and opportunities that are in the area.

“We’re really, really good at talking about our beautiful outdoor recreation and all the amazing small towns and main streets that we have in the region,” SCCF Executive Director Debbie Irwin said. “But not about the vibrant business community that exists here.”

Irwin says this type of investment really helps to create the communities people want to live in.

Shenandoah Valley selected to receive highly competitive U.S. Economic Development Administration Build to Scale Venture Challenge grant

Shenandoah Valley will be awarded $1.5 million in federal grants and matching dollars to support local entrepreneurship and innovation.

It was announced today that the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund has secured a Venture Challenge grant via the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Build to Scale (B2S) program. The Shenandoah Community Capital Fund worked with the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) to apply to this grant as part of CORI’s 2021 Rural Innovation Initiative, a technical assistance program empowering rural communities to create inclusive digital economies that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation.

The Initiative was launched in 2018 by the CORI and its sister organization, Rural Innovations Strategies, Inc (RISI). It was made possible through a cooperative agreement between RISI and the EDA. To date, this program has graduated 25 communities and helped rural communities secure more than $17 million to build tech accelerator programs and other elements of scalable entrepreneurship strategies in rural communities.

In addition to the EDA, the Siegel Family Endowment and Walmart are providing funding for the Initiative.

“The Shenandoah Community Capital Fund is a visionary leader in the Shenandoah Valley, bringing together diverse partners across the region to envision a strategic pathway towards increased scalable tech entrepreneurship and local tech jobs,” said Leah Taylor, CORI’s Head of Digital Economy Consulting. “We are tremendously proud of their tireless efforts to realize their vision, and are so excited that their hard work has been rewarded through this Build to Scale Venture Challenge grant. I cannot wait to see how Shenandoah Valley is transformed over the next three years through the REV Initiative.”

“We could not be more excited about this opportunity with the Economic Development Administration. This grant capitalizes on the momentum the Shenandoah Valley is experiencing around entrepreneurship and building a place that great people want to live, work and play,” said Debbie Irwin, Executive Director of the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund. “This would not have been possible without our amazing partners; CIT, JMU, GO Virginia Region 8, Shenandoah Valley Partnership, Charlottesville Angel Network, Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, Shenandoah Valley Tech Council, and the numerous localities across the region. The entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Shenandoah Valley will continue to thrive because of collaborations and investments like this opportunity made in the region.”

With the $1.5 million provided by the Venture Challenge grant and matching funds, Shenandoah Valley plans to use the B2S grant funds to capitalize on existing momentum within its entrepreneurial ecosystem by elevating the region’s innovation and creating pathways to scalable tech entrepreneurship.

The 2021 Build to Scale program awarded 50 grants to applicants from 26 states. The grants represent a combined $36.5 million in federal investment. Shenandoah Valley was one of just eight rural communities to receive the award this year.

Shenandoah Valley has also joined CORI’s Rural Innovation Network, a growing community of rural communities in 18 states working to train local residents in digital skills, employ them in new economy jobs, and empower them to launch the startups that will drive their future economies.

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