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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Growth4VA Regional Campaign Launched at Strome Entrepreneurial Center

Old Dominion University's Strome Entrepreneurial Center served as the perfect backdrop for the Growth4VA regional campaign kickoff on Oct. 18.

The event featured an expo of Old Dominion student and alumni-run businesses as well as remarks from several notable speakers, including University President John R. Broderick, who is also a Growth4VA board member; G. Gilmer "Gil" Minor III, Growth4VA's board chairman; Sen. Linwood Lewis, Jr.; Del. Matthew James; and Kay Brown, an Old Dominion alumna, veteran and CEO of Sweat N Swag Fitness, LLC.

A primary focus of Growth4Virginia is to promote reform and reinvestment in Virginia's top-ranked higher education system, and for the Commonwealth to become known as "the home of innovators and entrepreneurs."

Growth4VA is comprised of a broad-based bipartisan coalition of business, education and political leaders as well as Virginians from all walks of life who believe higher education is a crucial economic engine for the Commonwealth. It is supported by all 16 public colleges and universities in Virginia as well as the Virginia Community College System.

During the 100-day Growth4VA campaign, the coalition will highlight economic and educational opportunities across the Commonwealth while offering practical policy ideas and creative ways to achieve Growth4VA's strategic goals:

  • Making Virginia the top state for talent;
  • Becoming recognized as the home of innovators and entrepreneurs;
  • Preparing Virginians for great jobs and great lives; and
  • Providing affordable access for all Virginians.

Event speakers noted the importance of fostering talent within the Commonwealth, and praised the University's efforts on that front.

"We really have embraced entrepreneurship and it has evolved far more than we ever thought it would," President Broderick said. "The Strome Center is a beehive of activity with a lot of interaction and a lot of students sharing, exchanging and working together. This is part of what this experience has created for the students here — everything from the shared workplace, to the student retail store."

Del. James said the number one thing being talked about in economic development circles is talent.

"You guys are our solution," he said. "We're here to help you grow your business and explore your options. Your success is going to determine our success."

Sen. Lewis emphasized the importance of keeping talented minds in the state following graduation.

"Certainly, the higher education system in Virginia is stellar. It is head and shoulders above the others," he said. "A vibrant system of higher education and very strong economic development are hand and glove. You can't have one without the other."

Brown, a Marine veteran and entrepreneur graduated from ODU in 2013 with a bachelor's in dance, which earned her the nickname "the dancing Marine."

Brown was a past finalist in the InnovateHER challenge which is sponsored by Old Dominion's Center for Enterprise Innovation Women's Business Center and the ODU Innovation Center in downtown Norfolk in partnership with the Small Business Administration. Some of her products are being sold in the University's new retail store, THE Monarch Way.

"ODU has helped me as an entrepreneur by offering so many resources and programs to enhance my business," she said. "Being at THE Monarch Way store opened doors for me as well. Because of THE Monarch Way, I currently work as a contractor with Newport News Public Schools to do plant-based wellness and fitness with 5th graders from five schools."

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