By Amir Vera, The Progress Index
PETERSBURG — The creation of new business in Old Towne has just received a helping hand.
The city received a $60,000 Virginia Community Business Launch grant from the state Thursday that will help launch new businesses and expand existing businesses in Petersburg. Maurice Jones, state Secretary of Commerce and Trade, said last year was the first year of the CBL program. Year one, Jones said, helped to create or launch about 14 businesses in the areas of Gloucester, Hopewell and Stanton.
“The reason why this is so important is because everybody needs to figure out what they need to do to make their home a great place for people to launch businesses,” Jones said. “You can’t just depend on trying to recruit businesses in, you’ve got to be in the business creation business.”
Danielle Fitz-Hugh, president and CEO of the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber was the lead agent for this grant in the city. She added the grant money will come from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. It will come through the chamber. A small part of the proceeds will be for marketing and the educational classes for the potential next businesses.
“More than 70 percent of the proceeds will be seed money for new businesses so as those new businesses get up and running they’ll have cost that could be equipment, machinery or business cards. So they’ll be able to be reimbursed for those upfront costs that it takes to open up,” Fitz-Hugh said.
She also said the chamber will partner with the Longwood Small Business Development Center to teach entrepreneurs who applied for the money how to put together a business plan and pitch so at the end, Fitz-Hugh said, “they will have not only a business, but a sustainable business. So they’re not here for 90 days, but they’re here for 90 years.”
“This program is about economic gardening, we think we can help fund three or four businesses in the Old Towne region. We hope to have 20 to 25 businesses go into the program, but what will happen is after six months, all 25 of them should be ready for funding and ready with a plan,” she said.
Fitz-Hugh said the program with the Longwood Small Business Development Center will finish by June 2016.
“The businesses will have until December 2016 to be open for businesses. So they will go through the classes, through their business plan and pitch all by June 2016 and then they have another six months to get up and running,” she said.
City officials also showed their appreciation for the grant.
“The City of Petersburg thanks Gov. [Terry] McAuliffe and Secretary Jones for this opportunity and we are very excited about receiving the CBL grant to assist our new and existing businesses in Petersburg,” said William E. Johnson III, city manager. “As the city continues to grow, we must provide a sustainable portfolio for our community and this program will allow our entrepreneurs to be successful. We are experiencing an enormous growth of development in the city and the time is now to come to Petersburg to make a home here for your business.”
Petersburg was not the only locality in the state to receive a CBL grant. McAuliffe announced Dec. 17 that six other localities also received $60,000 that included the town of Pulaski, the city of Martinsville, the town of Vinton, the town of Marion, the town of Strasburg and the city of Lynchburg. In total, $420,000 in grant money was distributed to these seven localities.
“Through the Community Business Launch program, we are helping our communities develop a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem where community-based businesses will continue to grow and thrive,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “In order to grow, diversify and build a new Virginia economy, we must focus on small business development in communities across the Commonwealth.”