Calling Old Dominion University a Commonwealth leader in helping grow and nurture entrepreneurs, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the brand-new ODU Innovation Center - Norfolk is the perfect marriage of timing, location and need.
In remarks to a crowd of local business and academic leaders at the event in downtown Norfolk on July 20, McAuliffe said Old Dominion and the City of Norfolk have provided a space and resources to help entrepreneurs grow the economy.
"This is something spectacular," McAuliffe said. "Creating and empowering entrepreneurs - that is what this administration is all about."
The ODU Innovation Center - Norfolk is a partnership between the University's Center for Enterprise Innovation (CEI) and the City of Norfolk, providing area entrepreneurs with collaboration space and a comprehensive program of services designed to grow a community of scalable entrepreneurial businesses within Norfolk's Innovation Corridor.
McAuliffe, himself a life-long entrepreneur who has started 30 companies, said the University's leadership in forming partnerships with the community helped bring the Innovation Center to life.
"This is what we have to do to grow our economy," he said. "I really want to thank ODU. They really are the leader in this area."
University Chief Operating Officer David F. Harnage played a key role in creating the partnership that led to Old Dominion and the City of Norfolk collaborating to create the space for entrepreneurs. One of the top goals in Old Dominion's strategic plan is to "promote an entrepreneurial culture to catalyze economic development" in Hampton Roads.
"The opening today of the ODU Innovation Center - Norfolk moves us one big step forward in that mission," Harnage said.
In remarks at the dedication event, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander - a 1990 ODU graduate - said he is proud of the partnership with the University. "Norfolk is open for business. Thanks in part to dedicated entrepreneurs and to ODU, we are the economic heart of the region."
Marty Kaszubowski, executive director of the CEI, told the audience that the University's commitment to entrepreneurship is broad and deep. Beyond empowering student innovators through the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, and creating faculty leaders for entrepreneurship through the Entsminger Fellows program, the CEI offers a broad range of services through its programs to connect the campus to the business community.
Kaszubowski said the launch is proof the connected projects are a success. "The opening of the Innovation Center is one more indication that our partnership with the City is beginning to produce truly world-class results."
The Innovation Center, which houses four startup businesses already, provides entrepreneurs with flexible working space, but also links them to the broad spectrum of resources available from the City of Norfolk and Old Dominion University.
International Software Sales LLC is one of four companies currently receiving support services at the facility. CEO David Kern urged other aspiring entrepreneurs to join the Innovation Center roster.
"If you have an idea, and you're ready to get out of bed every day excited to make it a reality, you should come here, to join us. The more of us we have here working together, the more we can move the region forward," Kern said.
Because of its affiliation with the CEI, the center will offer additional technical and business mentoring resources to the community, including direct connections to other CEI programs such as the Hampton Roads Veterans Business Outreach Center, the Women's Business Center, the Technology Applications Center and GOV2COM, which aims to help government contractors diversify into commercial markets.
The ODU Innovation Center - Norfolk will also be an extension of programs offered by the University's Strome Entrepreneurial Center and the College of Continuing Education and Professional Development. It will be a place where Old Dominion students, faculty and alumni can gather to build relationships with local businesses, staff members of the city's Department of Economic Development and like-minded students and faculty from partner institutions.