VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher, second from left, presents a ceremonial check to William Neeley, representing the seed capital matching grant funding recently approved for NRC Escape Rooms LLC. From left are Wise County Economic Development Director Carl Snodgrass Belcher; Neeley; and Small Business Development Center Director Tim Blankenbecler.

BIG STONE GAP – AUGUST 28, 2019 — Sixty minutes. A locked room. One way out. The clock is ticking. In Big Stone Gap, that means one thing – you’re at NRC Escape Rooms LLC trying to solve your way out of one of three themed rooms as part of a fun game played with friends and/or family.

Escape rooms, like NRC Escape Rooms recently opened by William Neeley, of Jonesville, provide live­‐action team­‐based games where players cooperatively discover clues, solve riddles and puzzles, locate secret passages and accomplish tasks in order to find their way out of the room.

NRC Escape Room, LLC was recently approved for a $10,000 seed capital matching grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA).

“Assisting entrepreneurs in realizing their dreams and helping them to establish and grow their businesses is what VCEDA’s Seed Capital Matching Grant program is all about,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “At the same time, they are adding to the employment picture in the region and further helping the region to grow and diversify from within.”

Neeley noted the seed capital matching grant from VCEDA helped his business to purchase needed signage, props and to replace an air conditioning system at the business location at 301 Wood Avenue in Big Stone Gap.

“There are always things that come up when you start a business and for us, the equipment needs for air conditioning and the signage needs because our existing sign was destroyed in a storm were among the things the VCEDA grant helped us with,” Neeley said.

Currently, the business has one full-time and two part-time employees and three themed escape rooms. One is the “Eaten Alive” room which leads the escape room artist on a trail within the room to escape a zombie apocalypse; another is the “Break Out” room which uses a theme of breaking out of a jail cell to find the clues to prove you are innocent; and the third is “DaVinci’s Office,” which recreates the world’s greatest inventor’s 14th century office and a myriad of puzzles to find one’s way out of that office.

Neeley said a fourth room is expected to be open by the first of November with a Christmas theme: Santa’s lost his naughty and nice list and those trying to find a way to exit the room must locate it, or risk being on the wrong list.

“It’s a fun activity for traditional gamers, kids, millennials, corporate teams, couples, families and people of all ages,” Neeley said.

NRC Escape Rooms is open seven days a week – Monday through Thursday by appointment; on Fridays from 5 p.m. to midnight; on Saturdays from 12:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; and on Sundays from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

More information may be found on the website at, or on the business Facebook page, where special discounts are first posted.

Neeley worked with Tim Blankenbecler, of the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College, in the development of the NRC Escape Rooms business plan and application to VCEDA.

“The seed capital grant was a big help and we owe a lot of thanks to everyone who worked with us on this,” Neeley said. “One of the greatest helps we had was from Tim. He’s a great person to get to know and a wealth of information.”

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.  or

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.