Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe today announced the awarding of a $40,000 state grant to support the development of entrepreneurial classes at RAMP, a new technology business accelerator planned for downtown Roanoke in spring 2017.

The goal of the state’s Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grant program is to encourage micro/small business development and job creation. Virginia Western Community College, one of the public/private partners behind the accelerator initiative, will use the funds to develop RAMP’s first programming to assist startups in growing their companies.

“Small business development is a vital component of the new Virginia economy,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “The Building Entrepreneurial Economies grant awards will support our homegrown assets and create new opportunities for economic diversification. By supporting small business programs in communities across the Commonwealth, we are building a strong entrepreneurial environment that will ensure that Virginia continues to be the best place for individuals to start and grow their companies.”

RAMP, which stands for Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program, will be housed in the historic Gill Memorial Hospital building at 709 S. Jefferson St., along the recently announced downtown Roanoke Innovation Corridor.

Other RAMP founding partners include:

  • the City of Roanoke, which won an earlier $600,000 state grant to renovate the Gill building as an accelerator;
  • and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC), which will hire RAMP’s executive director and develop the accelerator’s mentorship and networking initiatives.

Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill welcomed the announcement of the state grant, which will be issued by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The department previously provided the $600,000 grant to renovate the Gill Memorial Building as a business accelerator.

 

“This grant serves as another reminder of the Governor and DHCD’s ongoing support for job creation within the Roanoke-Blacksburg Region,” Morrill said. “The City is pleased to be a part of the RAMP public-private partnership, managed by a key Roanoke/New River valley asset: Virginia Western Community College.”

Last week, the RBTC announced a national search to fill the top leadership position of RAMP. The director’s position is posted on the organization’s website (https://jobs.rbtc.tech/Jobs/JobDetails?JobID=g9SzVSrB790%3d) and on LinkedIn.

“We are accepting applications through Nov. 28 and hope to make a hire before the end of the year,” said Robert McAden, RBTC’s board chairman and the Blacksburg site director for Rackspace. “We are also actively seeking funds through multiple efforts, including a crowdfunding campaign (www.RAMPtilt.com).”

RAMP’s model, based on best practices garnered from existing successful business accelerators, will initially focus on accelerating three to five technology- or life science-focused companies per year. Companies accepted into RAMP will work closely with multiple mentors during an intensive three-month “boot camp for founders” designed to focus on building, testing, improving, validating product-market fit, and launching their product for the market.

The BEE grant will fund the development and instruction of entrepreneurial coursework for the RAMP startups companies in spring 2017. Virginia Western’s Workforce Solutions division will provide the training and provide other business classes open to the public in the building’s second-floor classroom.

To learn more about RAMP, go to: www.RAMPrb.tech. To donate to the RAMP crowdfunding campaign, go to www.RampTilt.com.