The town of Culpeper has landed a Virginia grant to help more entrepreneurs launch downtown businesses, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday.
Culpeper is one of four entities to receive state Community Business Launch grants this year, along with the town of Buchanan, Giles County, and Norton’s Industrial Development Authority.
“This initiative recognizes the importance of small business ... and combines funding with educational training to help prepare budding entrepreneurs to run successful businesses in their home communities,” Northam said in a statement.
The effort aims to fill storefronts and create jobs by aligning local economic strategies with a community’s vision for its future, the governor said.
Implemented through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the Community Business Launch program supports Virginians’ work to revitalize their localities by helping create a productive environment for new businesses, the governor’s office said.
“We know community support plays a crucial role in the success of an entrepreneur. It ... uses the competition to find and foster the entrepreneurs that connect with that vision,” said Jessica Hartness, the department’s business launch coordinator.
The program is designed to excite and educate each community, from local residents to elected officials, about the opportunities and impacts of small business development.
Culpeper’s grant will provide tools to prepare entrepreneurs to operate successful businesses in its downtown, according to Paige Read, the town’s director of tourism and economic development.
Culpeper’s CBL area focuses on the heart of its historic downtown. Covering a fifth of a square mile, the area includes the Culpeper Downtown Urban Development area, the town’s sixth designated growth area that encourages adaptive reuse of existing buildings, higher-density new construction, and design that complements the town’s historic character.
The CBL area overlaps other incentive zones, including the Business Incentive Zone, Culpeper Opportunity Zone, and the Culpeper Tourism Zone.
The town has determined that about 47 percent of visitors identify downtown dining, shopping and history as their primary purpose, Read said. But visitors and residents alike report that the town lacks enough outdoor recreation, entertainment and adult beverages for a town its size, she said.
“With the Community Business Launch grant, we plan to target the missing markets in our downtown and encourage local entrepreneurs to fill the much-needed gap,” she said.
In the spring of 2020, the town will start its Culpeper Competes program, which will offer eight weeks of educational training for entrepreneurs. In the ninth week, entrepreneurs will compete at making a small-business pitch.
Culpeper has partnered with Germanna Community College, the Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center, People Inc., UVA Community Credit Union, Gayhart & Willis PC and local business owners to develop the eight-week course.
Topics will range from starting a small business to accounting, finance and credit, operations, legal and leadership, sales and marketing, and branding, Read said.
“This program has proven to be a success in communities throughout the commonwealth by creating jobs and building a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball said in a statement. “Community Business Launch is focused on building a diverse economy and bringing vibrancy to our downtown communities.”
Since 2014, Virginia’s CBL effort has awarded $1.44 million to 24 communities serving more than 450 entrepreneurs across the commonwealth. The program has garnered more than $2.25 million in private investment, creating more than 230 full-time jobs and retaining at least 100 jobs.
This year, the Community Development Department received 10 applications requesting $449,325. Staff evaluated them competitively, favoring those that could implement a successful campaign, align with local strategies, and that had matching resources.