CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new setting right in the heart of downtown Charleston is now helping small businesses around the Kanawha Valley scale up and grow.
University of Charleston and city officials along with business leaders and Senator Shelley Moore Capito came together Monday morning to welcome in the arrival of UC’s Downtown Innovation Hub by way of a ribbon cutting ceremony.
UC President Marty Roth told MetroNews that the new hub will help local businesses grow through a multitude of ways.
“Through workshops, training, advising, coaching, mentoring, as well as networking, we’ll be able to work with small businesses that are doing really great work in the community but have kind of plateaued,” Roth said.
UC DIH will be sharing the $1.9 million space with the businesses, which so far stands at a cohort of 7 inaugural small industries that will be a part of UC’s Business Accelerator Program, and over a dozen more are expected to get on board.
“They’ll be going on a six month journey together through the workshops, the training, the coaching and so forth,” Roth said, explaining how the program will work with the businesses. “By the time we reach around the Thanksgiving holiday they will have completed the program, earned a number of certificates, and they will hopefully have the knowledge, the number of skills, tools, as well as connections they need to take their businesses to the next level.”
Capito said that while many may remember the new space at the corner of Capital and Lee Streets as the local bagel shop, it now has an even bigger purpose toward economic growth. She was happy to see the work the many entities did in getting this downtown space for that purpose pay off.
“It’s now going to be fostering new businesses, creating jobs, mentoring existing businesses, it’s very exciting, I think University of Charleston has put a lot of thought into it,” said Capito. “We worked together both as federal partners, state partners and the City of Charleston obviously under Mayor Goodwin’s leadership.”
Roth said UC has had a rich history of business innovation, often getting frequently asked if small businesses could come to the campus to receive their help there. He said they would try to help the businesses as much as they could on campus but the university knew that there was a need to provide them with more support on a wider platform.
The services which UC will provide for the businesses at the innovation hub will not only give them a leg up, but will further help to advance the economy throughout the region.
“Our goal is to get them to the next level, to help them increase their revenue, create new jobs and stimulate economic development here in the Kanawha Valley,” said Roth.
Roth said UC students will also play a part in DIH by giving them the opportunity to work side-by-side the businesses, help them with projects and through internships, and get a first-hand look at what it’s like to be a small business owner.