Lynchburg Innovation Week

Making Economic Development Approachable
In its very first year, turnout was strong at Lynchburg Innovation Week, presented by the Economic Development Authority (EDA). Organizers report about 525 people came out to events at Riverviews Artspace June 2-4.

“It was a different approach to traditional economic development events.

We wanted to make it more acceptable and open…bring in a younger audience that we don’t normally reach,” said Anna Bentson, assistant director of the EDA.

The week kicked off with a pitch competition. The five finalists from Opportunity Lynchburg’s CO.STARTERS program competed for an opportunity to receive a cash grant to open a storefront in the city’s Enterprise Zone 2. The judges awarded five grants to the businesses in varying amounts:
$12,000 The Craft Crucible—Owner, Randy Smith
$10,500 Good Karma Tea & Wellness—Owner, Cameo Hoyle
$7,500 Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats—Owner, Tarsha Joyner
$5,000 Benny Scarpetta’s—Owner, Amanda Ostrander
$5,000 Golf Park Coffee Co.—Owner, Adam Shurr

Other events during the three-day event included a workshop led by 18F, the agency that responded to the Healthcare.gov crash, and a screen printing class hosted by nonprofit Vector Space.

Alex Johnston, another key organizer for the event and principal consultant for Cities Reimagined, explained how the Innovation Week events reflected three new strategic areas of focus identified by the EDA last year: talent development, entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.

“The concentration of higher education institutions in Lynchburg gives us a unique talent advantage. Our goal is to harness the talent of entrepreneurs, college graduates looking for their first job and Lynchburg’s underemployed
citizens who need to skill up to find work,” said Johnston.

She and Bentson say Innovation Week will not stay the same every year, giving the business community something new and fresh to look forward to each time.

“As this event evolves, our main goal is to provide opportunities for learning and connection between members of our business community. We are excited to see this concept grow and change!” said Johnston.

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