LEBANON, VA – JANUARY 9, 2024 – Revisions to the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority’s (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching Grant fund were made recently by the VCEDA board to expand the eligibility criteria.

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 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.

“The seed capital fund program typically offers two rounds of funding annually – one in the spring and one in the fall — for which eligible business owners may apply,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “The program has been so successful since its inception that in recent years VCEDA has had to narrow the eligible business sectors due to the demand and the availability of funds. We’ve now been through a couple of cycles with the reduced eligibility and felt we could add back in some business sectors which have been excluded from recent funding rounds.”

The most recent revisions to the eligibility criteria add construction-related trades as a business sector qualifying for funds, in addition to those in manufacturing, information technology, energy and creative tourism.

The seed capital matching grant program is open to VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees. Businesses are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000.

“The purpose of the program is to help new businesses get started and create jobs, so at least one full-time job must be created within one year,” Belcher added. 

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. A letter of support from the county or city industrial development authority in which the business is located is also required.

Businesses must be located in or plan to locate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell and Wise counties and the City of Norton.  Only businesses in qualifying industry sectors are considered for funding.  The following are currently the qualifying industry sectors:

  • Manufacturing – includes businesses that make a product for sale, such as fabrication shops, food and beverage products, natural care products, bakeries, animal care products, wood products and furniture, musical instruments, jewelry, etc.
  • Information Technology – includes businesses that are computer-related, such as software development, network administration, web design, 3D printing, mobile app development, SEO consultant, social media consultant, drone videography, cybersecurity, etc.
  • Energy – includes businesses that are energy-related, such as solar panel sales and installation, wind turbine sales and installation, biofuel production, battery storage systems, energy consulting, etc.
  • Creative Tourism – includes businesses that are tourism-related which also have a creative or value-added component, often experiential for the tourist, such as arts and crafts, cooking classes, restaurants that use locally-sourced agricultural products, hiking and biking guide services, etc.
  • Construction-Related Trades — plumbing, masonry, carpentry, welding, HVAC and electrician.

Since 2017 when VCEDA formed the seed capital grant program in consultation with the two Small Business Development Centers that serve the region, 184 new small businesses have been approved for funding through the program. All seven counties and the city of Norton have benefitted from the opening of new businesses funded through the program in their communities. They have created some 651 total jobs — at least 256 full-time and 395 part-time jobs – through their second year of reporting. After five years, they project a total of 1,355 jobs — 754 full-time and 601 part-time jobs.

The total grant funds approved through the program for those 184 businesses was $1.77 million. Combined, those businesses projected $10.66 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.

For further information including upcoming application deadlines, interested persons may contact either the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southwest Virginia Community College at (276) 964-7345 or at Mountain Empire Community College at (276) 523-9454.  You may also contact your county or city industrial development authority, or VCEDA at (276) 889-0381 or mail@vceda.us.

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.