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INNOVA Commercialization Group Led Partnership Awarded $1.2 Million ARC Grant To Create West Virginia’s ‘3 Steps to Start Up’ Program

Innova Commercialization Group

INNOVA Commercialization Group, (INNOVA), an initiative of the High Technology Foundation, along with the WV Jobs Investment Trust and TechConnectWV, are proud to announce they have been awarded a $1,200,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to create the “3 Steps to Start Up” project providing enhanced entrepreneurial support for business start-ups.

“As West Virginians we can no longer hope things improve in the future.  Our economy has declined to such an unprecedented level that we must execute corrective solutions with an unprecedented sense of urgency.  One of those corrective actions has to be the implementation of a framework that maximizes the economic impact of the innovative and entrepreneurial assets in West Virginia.  This ARC funding enables this to happen and we are grateful for it” said Jim Estep, President and CEO of the High Technology Foundation.

“This “3 Steps to Start Up” three-stage business support program is unlike anything available in West Virginia,” INNOVA Director Guy Peduto said and builds on earlier successful programs in providing enhanced services and resources.  “Thanks to ARC and The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, we will combine the resources of INNOVA, the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust (WVJIT), and TechConnectWV to offer entrepreneurs or small business start-ups, entrepreneurial awareness and education, commercialization and marketing assistance, and most important of all; early stage investment. The “3 Steps to Start Up” provides potential entrepreneurs a structured and modular map for moving forward from conceptualization through market entry. The goal of the program is to build collaboration in every area and stage, both increasing the startup pipeline and accelerating the development, job creation, investment and market introduction of new companies in West Virginia. This will be done by strengthening the existing resources in WV, incorporating regional and national resources not currently available in West Virginia and making all available to start-ups and small businesses in a strategic and functional pathway.”

TechConnectWV, a state-wide economic development organization dedicated to the advancement of science, technology, and innovation will provide the awareness and education component of the program.

“We will host very specific, one-day events called ‘Venture Fairs,’” TechConnectWV Director Anne Barth said.  “These education and awareness seminars will target business and community leaders, influencers and innovators from across the state ultimately creating a robust pipeline of entrepreneurs and small businesses seeking start-up growth opportunities.”

INNOVA will provide entrepreneurs entering the commercialization phase with three areas of services – technical assistance, professional services and mentorship. “We (INNOVA) will conduct an initial business assessment  and match the entrepreneurs with appropriate providers to include Technical Assistance through regional or national collaborative entities who can provide product design and development and prototyping, Professional Assistance services from accountants, attorneys, market researchers, web developers as well as Mentorship Consultation providing refinement of a business plan and growth strategy, strategic planning and financial modeling” Peduto said.

The final component of the ambitious small business growth and economic diversification program will be managed by the WVJIT; the state’s public venture capital fund created to develop, promote and expand West Virginia’s economy by making investment funds available to eligible businesses, thus stimulating economic growth and providing or retaining jobs within the state.

“The WVJIT’s role is to expand our overall mission to stimulate economic growth and providing or retaining jobs in the state,” WVJIT Executive Director Andrew Zulauf said.  “We will leverage $1.2 million in private investment to support startups by creating what we are calling an impact fund that provides business early-stage financing.”  Zulauf also said a partnership of existing lending institutions will be created to handle the disbursement of available dollars to small companies who participate in the “3 Steps to Start Up” program. Inherent in this novel alignment is a structured process which eliminates funding gaps as a business moves from one stage to the next.

The “3 Steps to Start Up” program is available to entrepreneurs and small business start-ups in every sector of the state, focused on 40 counties where the declining energy and natural resource extraction industries have suffered the most.

Today’s announcement is one of 54 investments totaling $44.4 million via ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, a congressionally funded opportunity targeting federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production. Additional support for this program is provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

“I congratulate the INNOVA Commercialization Group for being an FY 2019 POWER grantee and commend them on the leadership they have shown in their community,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting coal-impacted communities in the Appalachian Region as they diversify economies, invest in growth-oriented infrastructure, train a next-generation workforce, and ingrain resiliency and hope into their local fabric. Projects like this help ensure a prosperous future for Appalachia.”

“The Benedum Foundation is pleased to be a funding partner with ARC for the 3 Steps to Startup Program which builds upon the work of these collaborating organizations to identify innovators and help them become entrepreneurs who build new businesses and create high quality jobs which grows West Virginia’s knowledge economy” said  Mary Hunt, Program Director, Community and Economic Development, of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

For more information, please contact INNOVA Director Guy Peduto by phone at (304) 333-6769 or email at gpeduto@wvhtf.org.