LEBANON, VA – DECEMBER 18, 2023 –  Six small businesses which have previously received Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) seed capital grants were recognized December 14 for their job creation activities during a luncheon celebrating the success of the overall seed capital program held at the VCEDA office in Lebanon, Va.

The six businesses recognized Thursday were the largest job creators by calendar year class of the seed capital program and included Foxtail Orchards Cabins and Campgrounds, LLC, Tazewell County, 2017; Bargain Mart, LLC, Tazewell County, 2018; Curklin’s LLC, Wise County, 2019; Valley Animal Clinic, PLLC, Tazewell County, 2020; Black Bear BBQ LLC, Wise County, 2021; and Far Fetched Grooming LLC, Wise County, 2022. Combined, those businesses – all of which continue to be in business today — have created 98 jobs to date– 44 full-time and 54 part-time jobs – through their first and second years of reporting.

VCEDA formed the seed capital grant program in 2017 in consultation with the two Small Business Development Centers that serve the region. The stated goal of the program was to provide a source of matching

Margie Douglass, Small Business Development Center program manager at Southwest Virginia Community College, was recognized for her outstanding service and efforts to help advance economic development by fostering small business success and growth in the coalfield region. Douglass is retiring at the end of the year. She is pictured with Larry Mosley, VCEDA chairman, left; and Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel, right.

grant funds to assist new, start-up and emerging small businesses located within the seven-county and one-city VCEDA region and to attract small businesses from outside the region.

Since 2017, 178 new small businesses in all seven counties and the city of Norton have been approved for funding through the seed capital program. They have created some 638 total jobs — at least 251 full-time and 387 part-time jobs – through their second year of reporting. After five years, they project a total of  1,327 jobs — 739 full-time and 588 part-time jobs.

The total grant funds approved for those 178 businesses was $1.71 million. Combined, those businesses projected $10.48 million in private investment – more than six times the amount of overall grant funding

approved by VCEDA, even though the program only requires a 1:1 match.

Virginia Tech studied the seed capital grant program in 2021 and found a 34:1 return on investment (ROI) on VCEDA’s investments in the businesses approved through the study period.

“We congratulate all 178 new small businesses — including the six largest job creators we are recognizing today — which have been assisted through the seed capital grant program,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “We offer our thanks to the Small Business Development Centers, the county industrial development authorities and the VCEDA board for making this program possible.”

“Thank you to VCEDA,” said Sharon Thomas, of Bargain Mart, LLC. “You are honoring us, but we should honor you for helping us.”

Debbie Ratliff, of Foxtail Orchards Cabins and Campgrounds, LLC, added, “thank you for believing in us and helping us to get started.”

Recognitions were also made at the luncheon, honoring Tim Blankenbecler, former director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Mountain Empire Community College and Margie Douglass SBDC program manager at Southwest Virginia Community College, both of whom were recognized for their service. Blankenbecler retired in 2021 and Douglass is retiring at the end of the current year.

Certificates of recognition and appreciation were presented for their “outstanding service and genuine concern for the people of Southwest Virginia” and for their “efforts to help advance economic development by fostering small business success and growth in the coalfield region of Virginia.”

Becki O’Quinn-Purdie, the current SBDC director at MECC, accepted Blankenbecler’s award on his behalf as he was unable to attend the luncheon.

The program has been so successful that in recent years VCEDA has had to narrow the eligible business sectors due to the demand and the availability of funds.

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. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses, within qualifying business categories, 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.