A special reception was held October 30th as an opportunity to build awareness for a unique mentor protégé program set to launch in first quarter 2015. The event, sponsored by SunTrust, at their downtown Norfolk building, brought key stakeholders together to discuss the timeline and purpose of this program.
“We need to be proactive in addressing the potential economic challenges that this region will face as reported by Dr. Koch in his recent “State of the Region” address,” stated Jim Carroll, the Chamber’s Vice President for Small Business and Executive Director of the Small Business Development Center. “PROPEL provides the region with an outstanding tool which will leverage the considerable talents of the SBDC, the Entrepreneur Organization, Hatch, Retail Alliance and others in giving small business owners the information and guidance necessary for them either to grow their businesses or weather the challenges ahead.”
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads are developing the foundation for this dynamic economic development tool for small business owners in region. With substantial support of the Entrepreneur Organization, SunTrust Bank and the Retail Alliance, the program is aimed at increasing the strength and viability of businesses already in operation.
PROPEL was introduced in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2009 by the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce. More than 90 new jobs were created in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region as a result of this economic development program. The regional economic impact totals more than $50 million.
Doug Minter, Business Development Manager at the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, is the driving force behind the PROPEL program and spoke about this innovative and dynamic program at the reception.
“We believe that mentoring is the next ‘Manhattan Project’ for small business growth Chambers of Commerce’s have one thing that few organizations have: a pool of potential successful large companies primed to mentor the small entrepreneurs, said Minter. “This is the simple yet powerful philosophy around the Propel Mentor Protégé program.”
Zack Miller, Managing Director of Hatch will be the Executive Director and will run one aspect of the program. It will be called PROPEL: Powered by Hatch.
“A program like Propel is important for our region because it pairs burgeoning and established businesses together to help grow commerce in our region,” said Miller. “One great aspect of the program is we will be able to work directly with businesses in other parts of the country so our network is growing outside just the immediate region.”
According to Miller, developing robust mentor-protégé programs, fostering relationships that will ideally last for years, is key to the future strength of the Hampton Roads business community and positions the region as a leader.
“With programs throughout the country our business stamp gets a lot stronger a lot faster, said Miller. “We've already seen how just knowing about what’s going on in different regions can help from support and sales opportunities.”
“The Hampton Roads Chamber's leadership alongside that of the Hampton Roads SBDC have agreed with this notion,” said Minter. “The collaboration with the banking community, economic development groups, young entrepreneurs, and the retail community makes success likely and should motivate businesses to get involved both as mentors and protégés.”
For more information about the PROPEL program, contact Jim Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (757) 664-2595.