Wednesday afternoon, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise celebrated the opening of its newest facility, the Oxbow Center for Innovation and Technology in St. Paul.
The ribbon cutting ceremony featured remarks by UVA Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry, Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Development Shannon Blevins, Don Finley of Growth4VA, Ed Albrigo of the Center of Innovative Technology, Scott Shinn of Atomicorp, Vivek Patel of Ascent Virginia, and Sharon Buchanan of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Chancellor Donna P. Henry and Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Development and Strategic Initiatives Shannon Blevins, along with representatives from businesses and organizations who plan to take advantage of all the Oxbow Center has to offer, cut the ribbon.
On the heels of the investments made in the region’s broadband over the last 15 years, UVA Wise is set to leverage opportunities for economic growth. The Oxbow Center will serve as a key asset for enabling technologists throughout the region to work remotely and access significant telecommunications infrastructure. As the region’s first coworking space, the Oxbow provides a resource for entrepreneurs to launch and cultivate their individual ventures.
According to Chancellor Henry, “Higher education has a unique role in economic development. We come alongside our regional and local economic development professionals to not only assist them with attracting new businesses to the region, but to also support the growth of existing ones. Our goal is to work with companies who use the Oxbow Center, connect them with existing resources in the region, and, when they are ready for their ‘forever home,’ work with the economic development professionals in our region to find them a place for their expansion.”
Ed Albrigo, president and chief executive officer of CIT, has partnered with the College for about four years. The company invests in startup companies in high-tech fields. The region has an abundance of talent, especially because of the strong education offered at UVA Wise, he explained.
Albrigo said there was no reason not to bring the young companies to the region, host them for a day or two, and let them see what Southwest Virginia offers.
“It’s a fabulous region,” he said.
Scott Shinn, CTO of Atomicorp, praised the company's partnership with the College. Atomicorp develops software that protects businesses that use the cloud for storage. The region’s broadband system and the ability for workers to do tasks remotely are just two reasons it is possible for small businesses to get a start in the area.
Shinn said UVA Wise has helped with economic development needs and creating a strong relationship with students and graduates.
“UVA Wise has been the best I’ve ever seen,” Shinn said. “It’s about talent. Where you live does not dictate that so much. We’re here because of the talent.”
The Oxbow Center was gifted to the UVA Wise Foundation in 2016 by the Oxbow Foundation. Soon after, it underwent its first phase of renovations, including the creation of a coworking space, conference room, classroom, and private offices.
Phase two renovations are currently underway, which are dedicated to the creation of the Clinch River Ecological Education Center, or CREEC, expected to open in spring of 2020.
“Under one roof, we are bringing together technologists, entrepreneurs, and environmental education, and we are looking forward to the synergies that will result,” stated Henry.
“Today, we are also placing a flag in the ground that this is the best time to invest in Southwest Virginia, and Southwest Virginia is the place for entrepreneurs. The Oxbow Center is the place for entrepreneurs.”
Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, the Oxbow hosted an entrepreneurial forum and student pitch event.
Margie Douglass of the Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Josh Sawyers, UVA Wise Innovation Center Manager, comprised the business resource panel and discussed the various tools available to startups and small businesses through the SBDC network.
Vivek Patel, Tony Lettich, & Steve Mercil made up the startup financing panel, giving valuable insight into the ways entrepreneurs can seek funding and financially sustain their ventures.
This was followed by a keynote by Carl Knoblock of the US Small Business Administration.
A highlight of the night was the student pitch event, in which students from both UVA Wise and Emory & Henry College presented their very own business ideas.
Last but not least, students from Ridgeview High School shared the story of their incredible journey to success within the competitive robotics scene.
The Oxbow Center would like to thank everyone who contributed to our grand opening event. We look forward to serving entrepreneurs and businesses throughout the state.
For more information on how you can begin coworking or book space at the Oxbow Center, please contact Kelly Moody at email@example.com.