Building a More Entrepreneurial Region 2000: A Strategy and Action Plan for Nurturing Small Business and Entrepreneurs

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1 Building a More Entrepreneurial Region 2000: A Strategy and Action Plan for Nurturing Small Business and Entrepreneurs November 2011 Prepared for the Region 2000 Partnership and Central Virginia Community College by EntreWorks Consulting (

2 Executive Summary In spring 2011, the Region 2000 Partnership and Central Virginia Community College retained EntreWorks Consulting to help the Partnership and its key stakeholders develop a new region-wide strategy for supporting small business development and promoting entrepreneurship. Working with key Partnership staff, EntreWorks Consulting undertook an assessment of current support programs operating in the Region 2000 service area. In addition, we assessed current state and Federal data on the state of entrepreneurship in the region and interviewed a diverse set of community stakeholders (listed in Appendix 1). Our analysis suggests that, while Region 2000 has been hard hit by the recent economic downturn, the region has strong fundamentals to build a robust regional support network for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The Lynchburg Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) outperforms key national benchmarks on many measures of small business growth and development. However, the region still lags similar benchmarks when local performance is compared to that of the Commonwealth of Virginia and other nearly regions. If Region 2000 looks to replace jobs lost in the current recession, a resurgence of local entrepreneurial activity is needed. As part of a wider grow from within strategy, Region 2000 can and should expand its support for existing small business owners and for those who aspire to be entrepreneurs. In particular, regional leaders should consider the following broad strategies: At present, Region 2000 lacks an advocate or voice for local entrepreneurs. In particular, key regional stakeholders could introduce new policies and programs that help create a pipeline of new entrepreneurs by encouraging more residents to consider entrepreneurship as a career option and by expanding the availability of training and other support programs. Local economic development and small business support organizations must build a stronger and more accessible local network so that residents can more easily access needed business training and assistance. The region s colleges and universities are a major untapped resource that can play a central role in building a more entrepreneur-friendly region. New community partners must be engaged in the process. Local school districts, the Region 2000 Workforce Development Council, and other social service organizations should be utilized to help expand entrepreneurship training for area youth and adults. 2

3 I. Why this Project? Over the past decade, the Region 2000 Partnership has established itself as a statewide and national leader in the creation and implementation of innovative approaches to economic and community development. Since the Partnership was founded in 1988, the region s business, local government, and higher education leadership groups have developed nationallyrecognized solutions to key economic development challenges facing the region. For example, the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) was recently recognized by the International Economic Development Council as a national model for technology-based economic development. Similarly, the Region 2000 Technology Council has developed a widely lauded set of tools and programs to promote interest in science and technology-related education and careers among local youth. In 2010, the Partnership completed an updated strategic plan that assessed challenge areas for the region and opportunities for new Region 2000 initiatives. A key finding from this plan was that the region needed to a better job of nurturing entrepreneurship---helping residents start new businesses and grow them into profitable globally competitive ventures. This new emphasis aligned with a wider national movement to re-orient regional economic development strategies toward a greater focus on promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. In response, the Region 2000 Partnership and Central Virginia Community College retained EntreWorks Consulting to develop this assessment of the regional entrepreneurship and small business environment. This report includes four key sections: Analysis of recent data on new and small businesses in the region An assessment of why entrepreneurship matters for regional development A review of the regional entrepreneurial support landscape An assessment of gaps in existing services and programs Recommendations for action II. Why Entrepreneurship Matters Until quite recently, the field of economic development was dominated by business recruitment and attraction strategies. For most communities, including Region 2000, economic development strategies were about convincing new firms to set up shop in their regions. This strategy was popular for good reason. It worked. Many communities prospered as new firms moved in, bringing high quality jobs and needed tax revenue. Some of the region s largest employers, including Babcock & Wilcox and Areva, are located here thanks in part to past investments at business attraction and recruitment. While business attraction must remain a key part of the economic development toolkit, the era of major domestic corporate relocations appears to be on the wane. Corporations still look for new and more attractive locations, but their numbers are declining. Moreover, the competition for these opportunities is now global. In the past, corporate leaders compared 3

4 sites across the US. Today, they are increasingly comparing US sites to competitive locations around the world. In response, economic developers are examining new approaches that seek to stimulate home-grown business development. US Small Business Administration (SBA) programs had long pursued this mission, but, today, small business and entrepreneurial development is becoming a core activity of regional economic development organizations such as the Region 2000 Partnership. These new efforts bring a more comprehensive approach to nurturing small business owners and entrepreneurs. They seek to support the whole range of businesses operating in a community. They are not simply focused on creating more start-ups or helping small businesses obtain loans or other needed services. They also seek to nurture fast-growing entrepreneurial ventures, which may be new or existing firms, who are the most important creators of new jobs and regional prosperity. This focus on entrepreneurial development makes sense because these companies bring outsized benefits to local economies. Recent economic research suggests that gazelle businesses, firms that grow at consistent annual double-digit rates, are the real drivers of prosperity. These firms, which represent a small portion of all companies, are the real drivers of innovation and prosperity in the American economy. High-growth firms tend to be more productive, more innovative, and more successful. They start small, but, in the end, they make major contributions to local economic prosperity. 1 In fact, new research from the Kauffman Foundation finds that forty percent of all net new jobs are created by a small, select group that comprises only one percent of all young businesses. 2 A strong base of high-growth firms brings other benefits as well. For example, faster growing firms have the capacity to provide better wages and better career ladders, which, in turn, create significant downstream economic benefits in terms of consumer buying power and other factors. Fast-growing firms also help attract new talent into the region. These newcomers bring new ideas and new connections, which can then help build stronger linkages between local firms and other parts of country and the world. Regions that succeed in nurturing a strong base of local entrepreneurs will see real bottom-line benefits in terms of new jobs, business growth, and overall regional prosperity. Combining these new strategies with traditional regional support for business attraction and retention helps create a more sustainable portfolio of economic development investments. This report is designed to support Region 2000 s initiatives in these directions. 1 Dane Stangler and Robert E. Litan, Where Will the Jobs Come From? Kauffman Foundation Research Series: Firm Formation and Economic Growth, November Dane Stangler, High Growth Firms and the Future of the American Economy, Kauffman Foundation Research Series: Firm Formation and Economic Growth, March

5 III. The State of Entrepreneurship in Region 2000 Communities across the US face challenges in developing an accurate picture of their local entrepreneurial economies. Public data on local entrepreneurial activity suffers from a number of limitations; most research from Federal or state sources is incomplete and often too old to provide a complete picture of what is happening on the ground today. While these research issues pose a challenge, a review of several different data source can help highlight key trends and patterns in the regional small business economy. Below, we use three approaches to assessing the regional entrepreneurial economy, by looking at the growth of local self-employment ventures, the composition of the local small business economy, and growth rates among these companies. These sources indicate that the Region 2000 service area is already home to sizable base of small business and entrepreneurial activity. Self-Employment Self-employment is the typical entry point for most entrepreneurs. Few companies start out with a sizable employment base. Instead, they start as one or two person operations that hopefully grow over time. Even mega-firms like Google, Microsoft, Ford, and General Electric can be traced back to a small group of founders. Most businesses in the US start small and stay small. In fact, the vast majority of businesses in the US are self-employment ventures. According to the latest Census Bureau data, the US was home to more than 21.4 million non-employer businesses in At the same time, roughly 6 million firms with employees operate in the US. Most federal data sources only track this smaller portion of the small business economy firms with employees. Yet, the self-employed are a critical part of any region s economy. These national patterns are also present in the Lynchburg Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). In 2008, the Lynchburg MSA was home to 13,663 self-employment ventures with combined annual receipts of nearly $465 million. 4 Thus, the average local self-employment venture generates average annual receipts of slightly more than $34,000. This level falls below the statewide average of approximately $43,000 and the national average of roughly $45,000. This pattern has held relatively steady for the previous five years. The number of selfemployment ventures has grown slightly from a total of 12,297 in 2004 to the 2008 total of 13,663. Meanwhile, average firm revenue has declined s total receipts were the lowest in the decade and fell significantly below 2006 s highpoint when local self-employment ventures averaged annual receipts of more than $39,400. A similar decline occurred at both 3 U.S. Census Bureau, Nonemployer Statistics Available at: US Census Bureau, Nonemployer Statistics for Lynchburg MSA. 5

6 the statewide and national level, leading some researchers to suggest that this slowdown is an indication of wider structural challenges facing startups across the US. 5 Firm Size Data Like most communities, the Lynchburg region s economy is dominated by small businesses. In fact, if one uses the U.S. Small Business Administration s (SBA) official definition of small business (firms with less than 500 employees), nearly every company in the region (98%) can be considered small. However, these official definitions are too broad to provide much guidance for understanding the regional economy. It makes sense to distinguish among various categories of small businesses. As noted above, the self-employed account for huge portion of the region s small business base. Small firms with less than twenty employees account for another large portion of the region s economy. According to the latest SBA data, these firms represent 86% of all firms in the Lynchburg MSA. 6 While small firms dominate in terms of their sheer numbers, data on economic impacts suggest that the regional economy benefits as much, if not more, from the impacts of larger employers. As Table 1 shows, 7 small firms (those with fewer than 100 employees) account for 97% of local establishments and 51% of total regional employment. In contrast, large firms (those with more than 500 employees) represent less than 1% of all companies, but account for 23% of regional employment. This pattern is not unique to this region; similar proportional impacts are found at the statewide level and across the US. 5 E.J. Reedy and Robert Litan, Starting Smaller, Staying Smaller: America s Slow Leak in Job Creation, Kauffman Foundation Research Series Paper, July Available at: 6 Note data exclude self-employed 7 Data in Table 1 is derived from Establishments, Employment, and Average Wage by Firm Size and Metropolitan Statistical Area, 4 th Quarter 2010: Lynchburg MSA (Source: Virginia Workforce Connection at 6

7 Table 1: Establishments and Employment by Establishment Size, Lynchburg MSA % 76% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 14% 21% 37% 25% 23% Percent of Total Establishments Percent of Total Employment 10% 0% 2% 0-9 Employees 10 to % 500+ Firm Growth Data While the generation of new start-ups and self-employment ventures is important to regional economic growth and prosperity, these companies have limited spillover impacts if they fail to grow. The real economic development impact of new entrepreneurs in the form of new wealth and new jobs----emerges when local firms start up and rapidly achieve high growth. As they grow, these firms create new jobs and bring new wealth to the community. They are the real engines of regional prosperity. As noted earlier, these fast growing entrepreneurial ventures create nearly all net new jobs in the US economy. 8 Until quite recently, it was extremely difficult to access data on how new firms grow over time. However, a new database developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation,, now provides this data. Using information from Dun & Bradstreet, the National Establishment Time Series (NETS), allows us to track business growth over time. 9 The NETS database tracks firms across several stages from self-employment to Stage 1 (2-9 employees), Stage 2 (10-99 employees), Stage 3 ( employees), and Stage 4 (over 500 employees). 8 Tim Kane, The Importance of Startups in New Job Creation and Job Destruction, Kauffman Foundation Research Series, July Available at: 9 Thus, while the Your Economy figures are not officially sanctioned by the US government, the data is more recent and also available in longitudinal form, allowing researchers to follow an individual firm s growth across a period of several years. In contrast, US government only provides a snapshot of aggregate activity among a group of firms. To view data, visit 7

8 While movement across all stages of firm growth is important, the Lowe Foundation is particularly interested in Stage 2 companies, firms with anywhere from 10 to 99 employees and roughly $1 million in total receipts. These firms have reached a critical inflection point. They have succeeded in growing and reaching maturity, but, at this point, they are too large to be managed alone by the single founding entrepreneur and are in the process of creating a professional management team. Firms that succeed in traversing this difficult stage in the business lifecycle have a good opportunity to become a large and important local anchor company. Within Region 2000, 2 nd stage firms account for 8.2% of all local establishments in These firms punch above their weight as they also account for 36% of total employment. Region 2000 s concentration of Stage 2 firms is nearly identical to that of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. At the national level, 2 nd Stage firms represent 7.7% of all firms and account for 34.9% of total employment. NETS data on firm growth in the Lynchburg MSA paint a mixed picture. If we examine the region s performance over the timeframe, several patterns emerge. The region has been hard hit by job losses among larger firms, with employment among these companies declining by nearly 50%--far above the US (-19.8%) and Virginia (-22%) averages. At the same time, however, the region outperforms national benchmarks in terms of job creation by the self-employed, and Stage 1 and 2 firms. Lynchburg s performance is solid, but it still lags Virginia state benchmarks and many comparator regions such as Richmond and Roanoke (see Table 2) data from 8

9 Table 2: Job Creation by Establishment Size, Lynchburg MSA and Selected Benchmark Regions 11 Lynchburg MSA Roanoke MSA Richmond MSA Harrisonburg MSA Hampton Roads Charlottesville MSA Blacksburg MSA Stage 4 (500+) Stage 3 ( ) Stage 2 (10-99) Stage 1 (2-9) Self-Employed Virginia US % % 0.00% 50.00% % % % % A similar pattern can be found over a shorter time frame of Over this period (as seen in Table 3), the region continues to outperform US benchmarks, but falls below statewide averages. In addition, a decline in job creation by Stage 2 firms, which dropped by 2.5%, is potentially worrisome. Data on new establishments created over this period (see Table 4) show that new firm creation and movement of firms across company stages slowed considerably in the period. At the same time, significant job growth occurred via existing firm expansions and new firms moving into the region, providing further evidence in favor of strategies that support both startups and existing firms. 11 Ibid. 9

10 Table 3: Job Creation by Establishment Size, Lynchburg MSA and Selected Benchmark Regions 12 Lynchburg MSA Roanoke MSA Richmond MSA Harrisonburg MSA Hampton Roads Charlottesville MSA Blacksburg MSA Stage 4 (500+) Stage 3 ( ) Stage 2 (10-99) Stage 1 (2-9) Self-Employed Virginia USA % % % 0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% The Bottom Line: What do the Figures Show? These figures, while incomplete, do provide us with a solid picture of what is happening among small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in Region Several key themes stand out: 1) Many local residents regularly take the entrepreneurial leap. Entrepreneurship is not a unique activity in Region Each year, thousands of people opt to start their own companies. Their motivations likely include a mix of opportunity and necessity. Many start a company to profit on a new market niche; others start businesses because they have few other options after losing a job or facing other economic challenges. Whatever their motivation, they would all benefit from gaining a better understanding of the rules of the road, i.e., tips on how to get started and how to succeed in business. While many new business owners will opt to go it alone, they should at least be given the option to learn more about the business building process. Expanding these learning opportunities does not mean that every new business owner must be counseled by Greater Lynchburg SCORE, the Region 2000 Small Business Development Center (SBDC), or other similar local organizations. However, it does mean that they should be given access to needed tools 12 Ibid 10

11 Table 4: Change in Number of Establishments, Lynchburg MSA and Selected Benchmark Regions 13 Lynchburg MSA Roanoke MSA Richmond MSA Hampton Roads Harrisonburg MSA Charlottesville MSA Blacksburg MSA Stage 4 (500+) Stage 3 ( ) Stage 2 (10-99) Stage 1 (2-9) Self-Employed Virginia USA % % % 0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% and information much of which can simply be made available on-line, from the region s libraries or other public facilities. 2) Region 2000 s small business performance lags other Virginia regions. When it comes to new business starts and business growth over time, Region 2000 outperforms most national benchmarks. In most cases, Region 2000 has faster growth rates for small firms---those with anywhere from 0 to 100 employees---than the national average. On the flip side, the decline in jobs among large firms in Region 2000 is much larger than national averages. Over the past decade, jobs at large firms in Lynchburg declined by 50% while they declined by 19.8% across the US. 14 Region 2000 performs less well when compared to several other regions in Virginia. When compared to other Virginia metropolitan areas for job growth among small firms (those with less than 100 employees), Lynchburg s performance lags that of Richmond, Roanoke, and overall statewide averages. All of these regions including Lynchburg---show strong performance on key metrics, but the Lynchburg MSA often underperforms when compared to these nearby regions. 13 Ibid. 14 Data from 11

12 Data on average receipts for the self-employed also raise potential concerns. The average self-employment venture in the region generates 75-80% less revenue than comparable firms located in Virginia or across the US. This gap suggests that many local selfemployment ventures are struggling, and may lack the capacity to grow or to even remain in business. 3) Regional business growth appears to be slowing. Because small business data is incomplete, we cannot produce complete figures for small business activity in 2009 and However, the latest figures from 2008 suggest that the trend of regional business growth and performance was beginning to slow prior to the economic downturn. Data from the Virginia Employment Commission also supports this contention, showing a drop in local startup firms between 2007 and Start-up rates have increased since that time, but have not returned to the high levels found in A recent regional economic analysis reports similar trends. 16 The study found that the Region 2000 economy fell into recession later than other parts of the state, but that the subsequent downturn was more severe. The study also suggests that Region 2000 s recovery measured by job creation--is occurring more rapidly than in comparable regions. With luck, a similar pattern will emerge for improvements in small business start-up and growth rates. While the Lynchburg MSA saw big drops in small business based employment in 2009, more recent data suggest a slight improvement in performance. However, while new jobs among firms with 50 or more employees are growing slightly, firms with fewer than fifty employees are showing slight declines in overall employment levels. 17 These trends follow a national pattern where, in recent years, new firms have been growing at a slower pace than in the past. A July 2011 Kauffman Foundation study found that, since 2006, the rate of startup growth in the US has sharply dropped. 18 Even worse, new firms started since 2006 are creating fewer jobs than comparable firms in the first half of the decade or during the 1990s. IV. Who are the Key Players? The Entrepreneurial Support Landscape Like many communities of its size, the Region 2000 area is home to a number of organizations that seek to support new business start-ups and to promote small business growth and development. The key local players include the following: 15 Data on New Startup Firms in Lynchburg MSA, from Virginia Workforce Connection. 16 Mangum Economic Consulting, Economic and Demographic Trends Affecting Region 2000 s Economy, Report prepared for Region 2000 Partnership, May Hereafter referred to as Mangum Report, Ibid, p Reedy and Litan, Starting Smaller, Staying Smaller, July

13 Small business-focused programs Local and regional economic development organizations Chambers of Commerce Local business-focused programs State, Federal and other institutional resources Small Business-Focused Programs When business owners and community leaders are asked to identify where to get business assistance, the Region 2000 Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Greater Lynchburg SCORE Chapter regularly rise to the top of the list. Along with the Business Development Centre (BDC), these groups are the only existing organizations currently located in the region with a mission exclusively focused on promoting small business and entrepreneurship. Both the SBDC and SCORE are part of state and national networks backed by the US Small Business Administration. Both organizations offer their services free of charge and are open to all aspiring and existing small business owners. The Region 2000 SBDC, co-located with and managed by the Business Development Centre, is one of 29 local SBDC offices operated across Virginia under the supervision of George Mason University. The Region 2000 SBDC provides counseling, training, business planning assistance, and connections to host of other related services and support. Each year, the SBDC works with roughly 200 clients from a range of businesses and backgrounds. The local SCORE chapter is a part of a nationwide network of volunteers who provide counseling, coaching and mentoring to new and existing business owners. Nine volunteers, who offer a mix of technical, engineering, and business skills, currently staff the Greater Lynchburg SCORE chapter. They work each year with anywhere from local businesses and individuals. Both SCORE and the SBDC operate in close cooperation with the Business Development Centre (BDC). The BDC is a 42,000 square foot incubator, loan program administrator, and business support organization created by the City of Lynchburg. The facility is owned by the City of Lynchburg and the BDC, as a non-profit corporation, is responsible for its operation and management. The BDC manages this large, mixed use incubator facility, currently home to eight local businesses. The Center also manages the microloan and revolving loan fund programs with some of these programs available to businesses in the region and others only available to businesses physically located in the City of Lynchburg. Since 1993, the largest loan programs have invested more than $3 million in 127 local businesses. Interviews with local entrepreneurs suggest that these organizations perform an important mission. When new and aspiring business owners are able to identify and access these services, the BDC, SBDC, and SCORE provide needed support and assistance. However, the current structure, like similar operations across Virginia and the US, is largely reactive. Counseling and training are provided in reaction to specific inquiries from individuals who learn 13

14 about these resources from a variety of sources. Limited steps are being taken to feed the pipeline, i.e. to encourage others in the community to consider entrepreneurship as a career option and to utilize available support tools and services. It is likely that a large base of aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners are unaware of these services or unable/unwilling to access them. Each year, the Region 2000 SBDC, SCORE, and the Business Development Centre provide support to roughly local companies. While most of these firms appear to be small start-ups or self-employment ventures, some larger firms have been graduated from the incubator facility. Yet, as noted above, the region is home to thousands of business owners and a large base of aspiring entrepreneurs as well. While many of these firms may not need or desire outside assistance, a huge potential untapped market exists in the region. Regional Economic Development Organizations All of the region s economic development organizations recognize the importance of small business and entrepreneurship as keys to regional growth. But, at the same time, none of these organizations sees this work as its top priority. Instead, supporting small business development is one mission among many. Partners within the Region 2000 Partnership are the most active players in this area. The Region 2000 Economic Development Council, the coordinator of this project, is now heavily focused on spurring regional entrepreneurship activity. The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) focuses on supporting technology-based economic development, and where relevant, does seek to work with local emerging technology-related businesses. The Young Professionals of Central VA (YPCV) operate in a similar fashion. While YPCV s primary mission is talent retention and attraction, many YPCV members are entrepreneurs or aspiring business owners. The Region 2000 Technology Council serves as an advocate for local technology firms, and its current networking activities are among the most popular for local entrepreneurs. It seeks a greater role in managing a technology entrepreneurship program. The activities of these Region 2000 Partnership organizations form a strong base for a more coordinated regional approach to small business and entrepreneurship. City, County, and Town Economic Development Agencies All of the region s local government economic development professionals view small business development as an important function, but staff and resource limitations prevent most of them from managing a portfolio of programs. Most communities provide referrals to other small business service providers, such as the Region 2000 SBDC, and also help local firms access other resources from regional, state, and federal programs. Given its concentration of businesses, the City of Lynchburg has the most aggressive outreach to small business. In recent years, the City has piloted numerous innovative and award-winning projects to help spur local entrepreneurial activity. For example, the Grow One program sponsored a summer camp (at Lynchburg College) where middle school students could learn about entrepreneurship as a career option. Related programs targeted students in other 14

15 grades from The OneTech program, which operated in 2007, was another interesting approach that sought to free office space to promising technology start-ups. Both of these programs should be re-examined as potential parts of an expanded regional entrepreneurship strategy. The other city and county economic development agencies manage a mix of programs that assist small business. They are available to respond to requests for assistance, and also seek to link local firms into regional, state, and federal resource networks. In most cases, local economic developers provide some basic advice and guidance, and then refer businesses to the SBDC or SCORE for more targeted assistance. Chambers of Commerce Region 2000 is home to a number of Chambers of Commerce who naturally focus on supporting local business growth and development. All of the local Chambers sponsor networking events and provide other services to their members. For example, the Lynchburg Regional Chamber offers a certified coaching program for business owners and their employees. At the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, four lead generation groups operate as a tool for business owners to network and identify new business opportunities. While these programs are quite effective and popular, most of the local Chambers do not provide a more extensive set of hands-on support services for new businesses. They instead rely on referrals to SCORE and the SBDC who can then provide more intensive hands-on support. Other Local Business Organizations Beyond the organizations listed in this section, there are few other regional entities with mission that includes business development and support. Our interviews identified only one business peer network---a BNI network for business owners in the Lynchburg region. Other peer network groups do not appear to be operating. Similarly, the region does not appear to have active business organizations for minority or women entrepreneurs. In many regions across Virginia and the US, community development corporations, social service agencies, or other non-profits have assumed an important role in business development. Local human service agencies, such as the United Way and the Lynchburg Community Action Group, are not engaged in business support work. Moreover, the region is not home to a locally-focused microenterprise organization that can provide funds and training to low-income entrepreneurs. Region 2000 is home to three (3) Main Street programs in Altavista, Bedford, and Lynchburg. At present, these organizations are focused on activities such as supporting retail development, event promotion, and marketing. However, they could become more active partners in supporting local entrepreneurship and small business initiatives. State, Federal, and Other Partners Local and regional organizations also receive extensive support from state and federal agencies. Both the Virginia Department of Business Assistance (DBA) and the Center for 15

16 Innovative Technology (CIT) are especially active in the region. CIT works closely with the Region 2000 Technology Council, CAER, and other technology-focused programs. Meanwhile, the DBA offers a host of programs. The regular Entrepreneur Express Workshops which exposed small businesses to the state government s procurement process were regularly cited by local leaders as a helpful and popular training event. Other state/federal partnerships such as the Genedge Alliance, part of the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership network, also operate in the region. Finally, key Federal agencies, such as the US Economic Development Administration (EDA), have regularly invested to support local business development activities. For example, the Business Development Centre s construction and its ongoing RLF program were supported by EDA funds. The Southside Business Technology Center (SBTC), based in Danville, provides business consulting services for existing and newly established businesses in the areas of business plan development, feasibility studies, sources of capital, market research and analysis, financial analysis, operational analysis and mergers and acquisitions. V. What s Missing/What s Needed? Our interviews with local entrepreneurs and other community leaders suggest that most people view Region 2000 as a good place to do business. Like many parts of the US, the region has been hard hit by the economic downturn. But, the local impacts have been less severe than elsewhere in Virginia and in the US. 19 The regional economy is diverse and resilient, and offers many opportunities to the committed and savvy entrepreneur. While interviewed business owners were generally upbeat about the region s economy, they also noted that the region was not home to a strong base of support services for entrepreneurs and small business owners especially when compared to other parts of Virginia or other regions in the country. They noted that the SCORE, the SBDC, and others provide counseling and support, but that other aspects of an entrepreneurial ecosystem were not in place within Region Cited examples included the absence of local entrepreneurial networks, limited access to alternative capital sources, and limited local access to more specialized business support services. In a similar manner, Region 2000 lacks resources and tools to encourage more people to consider entrepreneurship and small business ownership as a potential career option. Educational institutions from primary schools to universities---have few offerings to encourage students with an interest in entrepreneurial careers, including those in business and those related to social entrepreneurship. Other community organizations, such as social service organization or community marketing entities, also lack the capacity and tools to support this mission. In some ways, Region 2000 still operates with an older set of structures for community and economic development where entrepreneurship and small business development are often 19 Mangum Report,

17 considered as specialized activities. Yet, in today s economy, entrepreneurship must be a core part of any regional development strategy. Existing players, like SCORE and SBDC, must continue their work, but they cannot do it alone. They need a wider base of support across a variety of institutions, including education, workforce development, and economic development. Below, we highlight some key gaps in the current regional infrastructure to support entrepreneurship and small business development. Colleges and Universities When comparing Region 2000 to other parts of the country, a striking difference is the limited role that local colleges and universities play in supporting local business and economic development. With a base of more than 20,000 students, the seven area colleges and universities can and should be an important support mechanism for local small businesses as well as a talent pool for the region s next generation of entrepreneurs. At present, none of the local colleges has a sustained focus on entrepreneurship and business development. Several of the colleges have small-scale initiatives, such as an entrepreneurship certificate at Central Virginia Community College (CVCC), an entrepreneurship club operating at Lynchburg College, and the Mason Center operating at Lynchburg College. Fortunately, local college presidents are seeking to change this situation. For example, Sweet Briar College has just completed a new strategic plan that calls for creating a community of entrepreneurial educators. Under this strategy, Sweet Briar has created a new Division of Entrepreneurial Services with a focus on strengthening ties between the college and the local business community. More recently, these schools have announced plans to collaborate around the Region 2000 Entrepreneurship Initiative for Higher Education. This effort, recently awarded a grant under the 2011 Virginia Collaborative Communities Grant Program, has four (4) broad goals: To build and sustain a regional higher education collaborative that promotes entrepreneurial activity and small business development. To increase and expand student, faculty, and community interest in entrepreneurship To broaden and deepen connections between local higher education institutions and the region s current and aspiring entrepreneurs To build a collaborative model for other regions of the state that want as a regional economic development priority to engage community colleges and public and private four-year institutions to support entrepreneurs and small businesses and increase the number of jobs created by these ventures. This collaborative is quite new, but has tremendous potential to transform the local entrepreneurial landscape. For example, CVCC can and should assume an important regional leadership role. Since most CVCC students live in the region and are likely to remain here after 17

18 completing school, they represent an important base of potential future entrepreneurs within Region Across the US, community colleges are taking a more prominent role in regional entrepreneurship initiatives. In fact, a new trade association, the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), has emerged to share best practices and to build a stronger national network of colleges focused on this mission. NACCE members have introduced many new tools and models for supporting local entrepreneurs. These tools range from specialized curricula, youth outreach programs, and special programs targeting key fields and occupations (e.g., artists, technicians, etc.). Many community colleges also operate business incubation programs, business counseling services, coaching and mentoring programs, and other entrepreneurial development strategies. Business Growth-Oriented Support Services Most of the small business support services available within Region 2000 are targeted toward firms with low or modest growth potential. These firms, often referred to as lifestyle businesses, tend to remain relatively small, even when they generate a good living for their owners and their employees. Most firms in Region 2000, and across the US, are lifestyle businesses. These firms are the anchors of any regional economy. Current small business support programs in Region 2000 are primarily targeted to supporting these lifestyle ventures. The region has limited resources or tools to support firms seeking a fast-growth trajectory. As noted earlier, these companies, often referred to as gazelles, are the real drivers of new job and wealth creation. Future economic development success will depend heavily on the region s ability to nurture the development of more homegrown gazelle businesses. These growth companies need more specialized support tools and programs that are often not provided by traditional small business support programs. Examples include specialized coaching and mentoring, access to new sources of equity capital, and connections to national and global industry networks. In many regions, local entrepreneur networks serve as the primary vehicle for these types of connections. Creating and branding regional entrepreneurship can be an important first step in improving local access to such services. Entrepreneur Networks and Affinity Groups Beyond the need for networks that target high-growth entrepreneurs, the region also suffers from a dearth of similar networks targeting key demographic groups or industry subsectors. For example, interviewed business owners were unaware of any local networks for women or minority entrepreneurs despite the presence of a large local base of women and African-American entrepreneurs. At present, only the Region 2000 Technology Council (focused on technology firms) and the manufacturing-focused Central Virginia Industries, now 18

19 affiliated with the Lynchburg Regional Chamber, have prominence as industry-focused networks. These targeted networks can provide an important lifeline for new business owners who seek regular interactions with peers and potential mentors. In addition to networks for women or minority entrepreneurs, other groups might focus on businesses related to tourism or other industry sectors. In many regions, green and sustainable businesses are creating their own networks. Lynchburg is home to a chapter of the global Green Drinks network, a forum for residents and entrepreneurs with an interest in sustainability and environmental issues. Groups like Green Drinks can serve as launching pads for new business networks as well. Other Support Agencies As noted above, few other community organizations include business development and support among their key missions. For example, the region s leading community development agencies are primarily focused on housing development and social service provision. Similarly, the key Main Street programs devote most of their resources to events and marketing, but lack the capacity to provide other kinds of technical assistance to local firms. Workforce/Education Finally, the region s workforce and education systems could be more engaged in this process. The Region 2000 Workforce Investment Board, which oversees regional career and job seeker services, can serve as important investor in targeted areas for entrepreneurship and small business development---especially for area youth. The newly created Virginia Technical Institute (VTI) in Altavista offers an excellent potential platform for this work. Its focus on hands-on technical training could also be utilized to provide training on entrepreneurship and small business management as well. VI. Moving Ahead: Recommendations for Action As Region 2000 s leaders reconsider how best to support local entrepreneurs and small business owners, they should focus their attention on several broad areas of change. First, the region should embrace a more expansive and aggressive strategy to promote regional entrepreneurship. Second, a broader network of partners should be engaged to implement this vision. To summarize, Region 2000 should change how it promotes and support local entrepreneurs across the spectrum from young people in local school systems to high growth entrepreneurs operating in global markets. This task requires a deep and broad commitment from multiple organizations and partners---no one group can do it alone. A New Regional Strategy The Region 2000 Partnership should consider undertaking a new, targeted set of initiatives to put entrepreneurship on the map with local residents and community leaders. This Regional Entrepreneurship Initiative should focus on three primary activities that can help close gaps in the existing regional support infrastructure. 19

20 1) Build the Pipeline: Encourage more local residents, especially young people, to consider entrepreneurship as a career option and to understand the importance of these firms for regional economic prosperity. 2) Connect to Resources: Create a better publicized and transparent set of connections to key local, national, and global resources needed for business start-up and growth. 3) Advocate for Entrepreneurs: Serve as leading advocate for the needs of local entrepreneurs, by creating new venues to promote entrepreneurship and by creating a more friendly local business climate for these firms. BUILD THE PIPELINE As a first step, the Region 2000 Partnership and its collaborators should support new activities that help build the pipeline, i.e. to encourage more local residents to consider entrepreneurship as a career option. Ideally, efforts to build a stronger pipeline should target a wide array of groups. Efforts can begin in local school systems where expanding the availability of youth entrepreneurship training should serve as a primary goal. Because the introduction of formal new curricula can often pose a challenge, other tools for building business-education partnerships should also be considered. For example, Lynchburg City s Partners in Education program has been used to support entrepreneurship-related programs, such as the GrowOne and MentorOne, efforts in the past. These promising pilot efforts should be expanded. Leadership Lynchburg and the Young Professionals of Central Virginia also offer potential venues to build connections between local schools and leading entrepreneurs. Other local youth serving organizations associated with the United Way of Central Virginia could also provide after school programming focused on entrepreneurship. Finally, Region 2000 might consider sponsoring a regional youth business plan competition to encourage student interest. There is no shortage of programming or curricula focused on youth entrepreneurship. 20 In addition to national networks like Junior Achievement ( and the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (, there are hundreds, if not thousands of local youth entrepreneurship initiatives underway across the US. Each November, the Global Entrepreneurship Week program sponsored youth-focused entrepreneurship activities across the US. Last year, these programs engaged more than 445,000 people across the US--- a sign of strong and growing interest among young people. These youth activities can also be closely integrated with other projects focused on financial literacy, economics, or careers in science and technology. The Region 2000 Technology Council s excellent youth programs are already targeting many of these issue areas. Pipeline building should continue in the area s colleges and this effort is now well underway via the newly announced Entrepreneurship Initiative for Higher Education. These new higher education offerings and activities should seek to expose more students to entrepreneurship-related training and activities along with other efforts to build closer 20 A comprehensive list is resources can be found at the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education s website at 20

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