FSEDI receives award for STARTUP Franklin Southampton program

Published 5:48 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2022

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Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. was recently recognized by the Virginia Economic Developers Association for its efforts in advancing economic viability through economic and community development programs, specifically the STARTUP Franklin Southampton program.

FSEDI was one of three organizations or localities that received the 2022 Community Economic Development Award from VEDA, which hands out awards by population category. The Franklin Southampton organization, being a city-county program, falls under Category III, which is for populations ranging from 15,001 to 40,000.

As noted in a recent FSEDI press release, STARTUP Franklin Southampton is a grant program administered by FSEDI that helps entrepreneurs start businesses through business education, developing a business plan, presenting the plan through a pitch competition and awarding prize money to the top business plans. STARTUP has awarded prize money to 10 businesses in its four rounds that are still in operation.

FSEDI President and CEO Karl Heck said everyone with FSEDI is thrilled with receiving the Community Economic Development Award.

“It’s a great honor to get commonwealth recognition for STARTUP,” he said. “Ashley Covington, Lauren Sloan, when she was here, and all the people here have worked really hard with the businesses over the four rounds that we had over five years — we missed one because of COVID. But 16 businesses have started up over the time. The 2021 winner will be having their grand opening April 14.”

Also receiving the 2022 CEDA were Blue Ridge Community College and Roanoke County.

“We celebrate the outstanding work of economic developers throughout the commonwealth, including the three worthy recipients of the CEDA awards,” VEDA’s CEDA Awards Committee Chair Brandy Flint said in a VEDA press release. “Each of the winning programs provides an exemplary framework for other communities to replicate in order for Virginia to continue to attract new jobs and investment opportunities.”

Flint’s comments alluded to some of the factors on which entries into the annual awards program are judged. The VEDA press release stated that these factors include innovativeness, transferability, community commitment and overall benefits derived from each.

Referencing transferability, Heck said one of the reasons STARTUP received an award is because it could be successful elsewhere as well.

The VEDA release noted that STARTUP initially used funding provided through a Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development grant. 

“FSEDI absorbed the program into its operating budget after the grant-funded first round that awarded 10 businesses prize money,” the VEDA release highlighted. “Many of these startups have already expanded operations and created a transformative effect in that region. Vacant storefronts have been replaced by vibrant businesses — gyms, coffee shops, an interior designer and restaurant and entertainment options — in downtown Franklin, an overall benefit to that community that further resulted in a synergy among business owners. Today the program known as STARTUP Franklin Southampton is a role model for other communities to follow in their revitalization efforts.”

Heck stated that STARTUP has done a great job of helping retail businesses that do not really fit in the Franklin Business Center.

“Even people that don’t start up or don’t start up later benefit from the classroom training and the business plan assistance that’s part of STARTUP as well,” he said.

Reflecting on what the CEDA award means, Heck said, “Everybody in the business is looking for best practices, so to be recognized as one of those best practices is a compliment to everybody here and the businesses that we’ve worked with.”

And FSEDI and STARTUP Franklin Southampton may gain further recognition.

The VEDA release noted that VEDA will submit the winning entries to the Southern Economic Development Council for consideration under its award program that takes place later this year.