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.