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RAMP business accelerator awarded 2nd $40,000 state grant

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

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 in part to develop educational programming to benefit independent contractors, freelancers and other entrepreneurs with part-time work arrangements – those who are classified as members of the “gig economy.”

“The grants announced today support local entrepreneurship programs that are critical to our efforts to build the new Virginia economy,” Gov. McAuliffe said in a news release. “By supporting small business programs across the Commonwealth, we can bring new life and revitalization to local communities helping spur future public and private sector economic development investment.”

Samantha Steidle, Virginia Western’s RAMP Innovation Officer, said the new BEE grant will help RAMP broaden its reach to a growing constituency of entrepreneurs.

“Nearly all of the net employment growth over the past decade came from alternative work arrangements – gigs – not full-time jobs,” Steidle said. “The ‘gig economy’ impacts nearly all career paths –  from arts, design, communication, media and IT to construction, transportation, healthcare and many services. It will be a major driver of economic development and job creation, which is directly aligned with the mission of the community college system.”

RAMP, which stands for Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program, operates from the historic Gill Memorial Hospital building at 709 S. Jefferson St., along the Roanoke Innovation Corridor.

Other RAMP founding partners include:

  • the City of Roanoke, which won a $600,000 state grant to renovate the Gill building as an accelerator;
  • and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC), which hired Mary Miller as RAMP’s executive director and has developed the accelerator’s mentorship and networking initiatives.

A previous state BEE grant supported educational programming for RAMP’s inaugural cohort of six companies, which moved into the Gill building in June. The six were chosen for their ability to expand and create jobs within the STEM-H field. On Sept. 11, the cohort will present their business plans at “Demo Day” at Virginia Western’s Whitman Theater.

The new BEE grant will fund the development and instruction of entrepreneurial coursework for the second RAMP cohort as well as the general public in spring and summer 2018. Virginia Western’s Workforce Solutions division provides that training and other business classes open to the public in the building’s second-floor classroom.

To learn more about RAMP, go to: www.RAMPrb.tech.

Woods Rogers law firm pledges $50,000 to support new RAMP business accelerator

The Virginia law firm of Wood Rogers PLC will donate $50,000 to the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation in support of the new RAMP technology business accelerator opening in downtown Roanoke. Under a five year agreement, Woods Rogers will contribute $10,000 per year to RAMP beginning in 2017 and concluding in 2021.

The Educational Foundation is a nonprofit organization associated with Virginia Western Community College, which will provide business education programming at RAMP, located in the old Gill Memorial Hospital building at 709 S. Jefferson Street in downtown Roanoke.

“The Educational Foundation is proud to support the RAMP initiative and its mission to create jobs in Roanoke,” said Dr. Angela M. Garcia Falconetti, Executive Director of the Educational Foundation and Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Virginia Western Community College. “RAMP provides an example of the direct role that institutions of higher education can play in economic development.”

RAMP’s mission is to propel high-potential startups to expand and create jobs in the STEM-H (Science,

Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Health) fields. Other partners in the initiative include the City of Roanoke, which won a state grant to complete renovations on the historical Gill Memorial site; and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, which will recruit RAMP participants and provide them mentorship and networking opportunities.

“It is an honor to be part of RAMP from Day One,” said Dan Summerlin, President of Woods Rogers. “We firmly believe that entrepreneurs and start-up companies are a vital part of the economic future of Roanoke and of Virginia as well. Woods Rogers and its Emerging Growth practice group are committed to helping this initiative succeed. We look forward to being an active contributor of counsel and ideas to RAMP’s participants.”

RAMP, which stands for Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program, is accepting applicants for its first participant teams through March 15.  Learn more at www.ramprb.tech. The program is expected to start in June 2017.

RAMP participants will benefit from a mentoring program, networking opportunities, business education and access to capital. The inaugural program includes an intensive “boot camp” that culminates in a   $5,000 prize for the accelerator company offering the best jobs-creation strategy.

The program’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 in the first cohort. Companies accepted into RAMP will work closely with multiple mentors to focus on building, testing, improving, validating product-market fit, and launching their product for the market.

To be considered for RAMP, applicants must:

  • Agree to locate their company, rent-free, inside the accelerator for a six-month residency;
  • Have a minimum viable product, preferably with sales traction;
  • Work full time on their startup during the program;
  • Have a product or service employing workers in the STEM-H field, with scalability potential;
  • Be willing to consider operating their company in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region after graduation.

RAMP business accelerator awarded $40,000 state grant

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.