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

President Broderick Touts Economic Potential of Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

By Joe Garvey

President John R. Broderick hailed the official opening of the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship as "the next phase of Old Dominion's commitment to expand the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Hampton Roads" at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new center on Thursday downtown Norfolk.

The institute, located at 112 Bank St., is a one-stop shop for the community, students, faculty, staff and alumni seeking resources and services for innovation, entrepreneurship, and new enterprises and programs. It offers space to train, conduct workshops and hold meetings.

President Broderick noted that ODU established the institute in January 2018. The goal was to put all of the university's small-business assistance programs and entrepreneurial initiatives "under one umbrella."

"I must say over the past 18 months this has really flourished," he told a crowd of more than 40 community leaders who gathered for the ceremony and a reception. "The institute has held numerous innovation events on campus. And more importantly, across the region. In addition, it has been working actively to create a strong partnership between ODU's research faculty and the business community."

Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander said the institute is a much-need resource, noting that the city's the Department of Development has already reached out to ODU to begin exploring joint programming and opportunities.

"We are excited to have Old Dominion University's Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the heart of downtown," said Alexander, an ODU alum.

Sharon E. Harrington, the owner of Amediate, LLC, was among the businesspersons who attended the ribbon cutting. She feels downtown Norfolk is the ideal spot for the institute, which she called innovative and inspiring.

"Not only is my office downtown, but I live downtown. So I know the benefits and the value of this metro center that they're building here," said Harrington, whose company works with employers and employees to anticipate and resolve workplace conflicts. "I think it's awesome. ... It's the kind of organization that we would lose a lot if wasn't here."

The Institute contains the Strome Entrepreneurial Center (SEC), Innovation Center Norfolk, Tempo, the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), the Women's Business Center (WBC), and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Affiliated centers are funded through a mix of federal grant programs, below-market-rate fees, and private philanthropy to keep nearly all the programming affordable and, in many cases, free of charge for participants.

Atlantic Union Bank is one of the institute's supporting partners.

"We felt it was important to be a sponsor here, of the ODU Bank Street Ideation Station, because this is a place where students, the community, faculty, staff and alumni can meet and receive support and resources to achieve their innovation and entrepreneurship goals," President and CEO John Asbury said.

Nate Fender, co-founder and chief operating officer of ARIO Technologies, said his company benefited from working with the institute.

"ODU IIE is a Swiss Army Knife of resources that we utilized for our business," he said. "And the interesting thing about that was that we didn't even realize what we were going to need as we started our to grow. And we'd say, 'Hmm, we need this,' or "Hey, we need this.' Then we'd ask questions. Then we were guided down those routes to help us in various ways."

The institute also is launching a new program called the Open Seas Innovation Hub, which will serve as a catalyst and convener for discovering, developing and deploying innovative concepts related to all aspects of living and working on and near the water. Read more about Open Seas here.

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