By: Pete Humes
Inside Business, April 22, 2016
From left: Gov. Terry McAuliffe; Shawn Avery, president and CEO, Opportunity Inc.; Edna Baehre-Kolovani, president, TCC; William Nusbaum, board chair, Opportunity Inc.; and Corey McCray, VP of Workforce Solutions, TCC.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe visited Tidewater Community College in Norfolk recently to announce a new $1 million program to help small businesses educate their workforce.
The Virginia Community College System Incumbent Workforce Credentialing Program will help existing employees earn certifications and licenses. The new program is the latest in a series of statewide initiatives introduced to drive workforce credential attainment.
“This is great progress in our work to ensure that Virginia’s businesses have the number of highly skilled workers they need to get the job done today and grow the jobs of tomorrow so we can build a new Virginia economy,” McAuliffe said in a statement.
The $1 million will be made available in grants to the 15 workforce development regions throughout the state. Local organizations will compete for the five grants in May. Awards will be announced in June.
“We’re a little bit limited in what we can do with our business partners,” said Shawn Avery, president and chief executive officer of Opportunity Inc., the workforce development board for Hampton Roads. “This is a new funding stream that will allow us to work more closely with them.”
Avery said that if Opportunity Inc. wins the grant, it’s likely the funds will be available in July.
What does the money do? Basically it will help small businesses (250 or fewer employees) advance their existing workforce with industry-recognized certifications and occupational licenses. Opportunity Inc. will work with companies and connect them with educational programs in local community colleges.
The program is focused primarily on high-demand industries, and all training funded by the new program must be targeted to a national, portable workforce credential in a field for which employers are demanding skills development and certifications, including manufacturing, energy, information technology, cybersecurity, health care, transportation and logistics.
“We’re excited about the potential opportunities for this funding,” Avery said, acknowledging that the estimated $200,000 per grant is more a good start than a game-changer. “Every dollar counts, and hopefully this will lead to some other funding opportunities.”
The initiative supports the governor’s goal of having Virginians attain 50,000 STEM-H workforce credentials per year by the end of the administration. It also supports the long-term state goal of making the commonwealth the best educated state in the U.S by 2030 as measured by the percentage of Virginians holding an industry-recognized credential, occupational license, apprenticeship credential, or college certificate or degree.
According to a release, funding for the new program will come out of the governor’s set-aside funds in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act. To expand the pool of resources available for training and credentialing, participating businesses and industries will contribute from 10 percent to 50 percent of the cost of the training, based on the business’s number of employees.
“We heard from a lot of small business owners who have a tough time helping their employees stay up-to-date with their skills, finding qualified people to hire, and actually doing what their business does,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “We need more credentialed talent across the board, and this approach focuses resources in a smart way, providing an economic development resource for small companies already invested in their local communities.”
Norfolk budget adds dollars for entrepreneurs
Norfolk’s proposed city budget for 2017 includes a focus on “economic resilience.” During his presentation to Norfolk City Council, city manager Marcus Jones spoke about how initiatives such as 757 Angels, Vibrant Spaces, ODU’s Innovation Center, Business Cafes and SWaM help boost the city’s economy.
“We’re energizing and connecting our neighborhoods, providing innovative programs that put our residents to work and developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Jones said in a statement. “We’re going to capitalize on Norfolk’s reputation that this is the place to come to live, work and play.”
Highlights of the proposed 2017 budget include $30 million for neighborhood improvements, a $4.1 million broadband initiative to establish fiber networks and increase bandwidth in commercial and residential areas (with free public Wi-Fi for MacArthur Square and Town Point Park).
Also proposed? A new innovation zone that will give technology businesses a break on taxes. The proposed area would be located along a corridor that stretches from Old Dominion University to Norfolk State University
The entire proposed 2017 budget is available for review at norfolk.gov, and the public will have the opportunity to weigh in during public hearings at Granby High School on May 4 (general comments) and May 5 (property assessment comments). Both hearings begin at 6 p.m.
Norfolk’s council is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget May 24.
24-hour fitness business bulks up
Natural Bodyz Fitness purchased and renovated the former Bayside Wellness and Fitness facility at 1608 Pleasure House Road in Virginia Beach.
According to a release, Natural Bodyz Fitness invested more than $250,000 to remodel and update the existing 5,800-square-foot facility. This is the second location for the Virginia Beach-based fitness company.
Just like its Kempsville location, Natural Bodyz Fitness Bayside will be open 24 hours a day, every day. Full- and part-time personal trainers will be on staff to accommodate all fitness levels. Natural Bodyz Fitness uses the USA Elite Trainers digital training app systems.
“Our company is very proud to offer Natural Bodyz Fitness members an additional location in Virginia Beach,” CEO Chad Havunen said. “Bayside is a modern, state-of-the-art facility that was constructed to provide a first-class experience for every member.”
Email economic development and new business tips to Inside Business writer Pete Humes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (757) 222-5356.