U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build to Scale Venture Challenge Grant Will Make Up Most of $1.5 Million Project to Support Rural Entrepreneurs
Vermont Business Magazine The Northeast Kingdom will be home to new resources for technology innovation, thanks to a grant secured by Vermont State University’s Do North Co-working in partnership with the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA and several other partners. More than $750,000 in funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Build to Scale Venture Challenge Grant will infuse the team’s launch of the InnovateNEK initiative, which is also receiving funding or in-kind contributions from the state, the Town of Lyndon, the Town of St. Johnsbury and the two partners themselves.
The goal of InnovateNEK is to transform Vermont’s most rural economy from one suffering from the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs to one driving scalable tech entrepreneurship, investment, and job creation, allowing the partners to fuel new businesses, create high-wage jobs and forge a more resilient regional economy by::
- Cultivating a regional community and culture around tech innovation, engaging 250 to 350 participants in events and activities supporting their work,
- Building off existing programming to implement a scalable startup support program that will help 45 tech entrepreneurs go from ideation to launch and scale
- Developing a network of mentors and investors to increase access to social and financial capital available to businesses.
“We are excited to strengthen our partnership with NVDA and to increase the support offered to entrepreneurs and emerging businesses in the Northeast Kingdom through this impactful investment,” said Jared Reynolds, Vermont State University’s (VTSU’s) Entrepreneur in Residence at Do North Coworking. “This funding will help us continue to build our Forestry Accelerator and our 10-week early-stage incubator program that supports emerging businesses and to develop additional resources that support entrepreneurship and innovation and grow Vermont’s economy.”
“New collaborations through InnovateNEK will create opportunities for innovation in the region’s workforce, fundamentally changing how people view their abilities and work culture and creating economic growth that results in high-skill, high-paying jobs supported by private investment,” said Annie McLean, NVDA’s Community & Economic Development Coordinator.
InnovateNEK programming will take place at Do North’s existing location in downtown Lyndon, at a new innovation space in St. Johnsbury, and in satellite locations throughout the region. Since its opening in 2018, Do North Coworking has been the go-to tech startup resource in the region, built around a physical space that brings tech entrepreneurs and remote workers together and launches programs to support entrepreneurial growth.
As the parent organization of Do North Coworking, VTSU provides access to students and faculty that have demonstrated interest and skills necessary to start technology companies. VTSU offers innovative programming in business, data science, computing, computer information systems, and game design at its Lyndon campus. These programs educate and train high-skill technology workers and employ faculty with many potential ideas for tech entrepreneurship.
“What sets us apart at VTSU is that we are not just campuses that happen to be in communities; we care deeply about those communities and are truly part of the fabric of the towns and neighborhoods where our students learn,” stated David Bergh, interim president of Vermont State University. “Together with these partners and so many others, we are educating and training our state’s workforce and fueling innovation to tackle some of our toughest societal challenges.”
The 2023 Build to Scale program awarded 60 grants to applicants from 36 states from among hundreds of applicants. The grants represent a combined $53 million in federal investment. The Northeast Kingdom was one of just 10 rural applicants to receive an award this year.
“We are grateful to all the lawmakers and others who supported our work all along, as well as to the Vermont Community Foundation, which made an original investment to jumpstart the work that resulted in this transformational award,” he added.
The support provided by the Vermont Community Foundation’s VT COVID-19 Response Fund, which identified rural entrepreneurship as a key challenge magnified by the pandemic, allowed for the collaboration required in applying for this award. Do North Coworking, NVDA and CORI were joined by several local partners in the grant application, including the State of Vermont and the towns of St. Johnsbury and Lyndon.
About the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA)
The Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) serves the people, municipalities, and businesses of the 3-county Northeast Kingdom region as both the Regional Planning Commission and Regional Development Corporation. NVDA contributes to the economic and social betterment of the region by working to develop and promote the recreational, agricultural, economic, natural, and human resources of the Northeast Kingdom. For more information visit www.nvda.net.
About Do North Coworking
Do North Coworking, an entity of Vermont State University, is a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. It leverages its coworking space and range of startup and entrepreneur-focused programs and resources to support entrepreneurs from early stage through incubation, accelerator, and growth. Do North’s programs and resources include KickStartNEK, Do North Pitch, The Vermont State Student Startup Fund, and the Forestry Accelerator. For more information visit www.donorthcoworking.com.
About the Center on Rural Innovation
The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) is a national nonprofit committed to advancing economic prosperity in rural America through the creation of inclusive tech economy ecosystems that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation. Established in 2017, CORI is at the heart of a dynamic social enterprise focused on closing the rural opportunity gap. The organization partners with a taxable nonprofit, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), and a seed fund, the CORI Innovation Fund, focused on early-stage technology companies located in rural areas. For more information visit www.ruralinnovation.us.
About Vermont State University
Vermont State University combines the best of Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College and serves students on five campuses and multiple learning sites across the Green Mountains and beyond, as well as online. Vermont State provides a high-quality, flexible, and affordable education for students seeking associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, certificates, and in-demand professional credentials. The university builds upon a history of public higher education in Vermont dating back to 1787. Learn more at VermontState.edu.
Source: 11.20.2023. Vermont State Colleges