The West Virginia Hive and its parent, the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA), celebrated the opening of its new offices, business hub and coworking space in downtown Beckley with an active agenda – remarks of appreciation, ribbon cutting, awards presentations, a Facebook Live session and limited tours of the new space.
Kris Warner, State Director for Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), was the keynote speaker at the 9:30 a.m. ribbon cutting for the newly-renovated facility, which is in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone. “We are pleased to be able to help the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority as they work towards connecting businesses and communities in the New River Gorge region with the resources they need to thrive,” said Warner. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA has continued to work untiringly as a strong partner to the Mountain State, because we know that when rural West Virginia thrives, all of America thrives.”
Judy Moore, Director of the West Virginia Hive, said her focus at the Hive has been on working closely with business leaders on new start-ups, growth and innovation with an emphasis on learning where barriers to success exist. “This expansive facility offers our staff and our clients first-class space, technology, and resources to create more jobs and grow the local and regional economies.” Two USDA grants and a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant were catalysts for the new business development accelerator.
During opening remarks, Moore cited the many people who were instrumental in the new facility becoming a reality:
- Beckley Mayor Robert Rappold
- Joe Brouse of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority
- Pastor Mitchell and members of the Beckley Presbyterian Church
- Massey Family Foundation
- Michael Graney of the West Virginia Development Office
- Kris Warner with the USDA
- Tracey Rowan with the EDA
- Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Carol Miller
Members of the West Virginia Congressional delegation were effusive in their praise of the West Virginia Hive and its mission.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said, “The West Virginia Hive Business Hub provides southern West Virginia entrepreneurs a space to work, collaborate, and foster new ideas to spur economic development in the region. The Hub will support innovation and job growth through small businesses and entrepreneurs in the area, helping to revitalize the coalfields and boost the regional economy. Today is a great day for Beckley and southern West Virginia as the Hive opens its doors to West Virginians. I greatly appreciate the investment made by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and all those who made today a reality. I look forward to seeing the benefits of this center in the years to come.”
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, also a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, underscored the federal role in economic development. “As our state continues to diversify our economy, we need the tools to support this growth. The Beckley Hive is a perfect example of a support network that helps to foster the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation we are seeing throughout the state and continue to promote. I have been a longtime supporter of this facility—advocating and securing funding for the Hive, as well as hosting Appalachian Regional Commission Co-Chair Tim Thomas at the original facility recently to see the good work happening there. I’m thrilled to see the Hive expanding, allowing even more opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners the chance to hone their business plan and accelerate their visions to reality. I will continue supporting economic growth and diversity by advocating for resources at the federal level, which will give aspiring entrepreneurs a better chance at achieving the American Dream. EDA and USDA investments in West Virginia are making a difference, and I’m proud to continue working so that projects like the Hive receive the funding it deserves.”
U.S. Rep. Carol Miller added, “I am thrilled to see the West Virginia Hive Network expand and open new offices today. The WV Hive Network plays a crucial role in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs in our community. I thank the Trump Administration for providing the funds for this project and investing in rural America.”
Moore recognized business and university leaders with annual West Virginia Hive awards, including:
- 2020 Small Business of the Year: Analabs, Inc.
- 2020 Business Startup of the Year: Dumas Psychology Collective & The Brain Training Center
- 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year: Alison Ibarra, Pinheads Bowling Center
- 2020 Social Enterprise of the Year: Appalachian Furnishings
- 2020 Partners of the Year: Dr. Carolyn Long, President of WVU Institute of Technology; the
- Region 1 Workforce Development Board; and the Beckley Presbyterian Church
- 2020 Community Advocate of the Year: Ann Worley
The West Virginia Hive has served 306 businesses and helped launch 44 businesses in its service area. It is currently assisting 79 clients with business advising and technical assistance support on business modeling, financing, human resources, marketing and other services.
The new facility is nearly 4,000 square feet of space, strategically located in downtown Beckley and within walking distance to the West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) Campus. The business hub includes multiple flex/coworking space options (rentable by the day, week, or month) and overhead (utilities, wi-fi, and access to shared administrative services); shared space, including kitchenette, sitting areas, small and large conference areas; and a staffed reception area. Other services are accessible, including one-on-one business advising and access to technical assistance funds; trainings and networking events, designed with the needs of the tenants and Beckley’s business community involved; specialized technology and software for clients; video conferencing; copier access; and printer access. Not only will this space address a need for the business owner — a professional space with little to no overhead as well as professional services — but it will provide a place for entrepreneurs to network on an organic basis and instill a water cooler culture in southern West Virginia so business collaboration can lead innovation.
The NRGRDA led efforts to secure another EDA grant to offer angel investment opportunities statewide through the Country Roads Angel Network (CRAN). “Supporting entrepreneurs in West Virginia, CRAN provides accredited investors the opportunity to invest in and, where beneficial, mentor West Virginia based start-ups,” Moore said. “The network’s purpose is to provide opportunities for investors to create financial returns, while providing a much needed, missing piece of the entrepreneurial financing ecosystem in West Virginia.”
Specific information about the West Virginia Hive can be found at https://wvhive.com/. The Hive is the entrepreneurship program of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority and the administrator of the Country Roads Angel Network.