Opportunity Appalachia hopes to match investors, projects
A group of Southwest Virginia community leaders are helping regional entrepreneurs market their ideas to investors as part of Appalachian Community Capital’s multistate Opportunity Appalachia economic development initiative.
Through the initiative, Appalachian Community Capital is seeking to match investors to 15 “shovel-ready” local projects to be built in designated opportunity zones within Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.
The goal of the initiative is to attract at least $7.5 million in total investment in the 15 projects, which would in turn create an anticipated 720 total jobs, says Christiansburg-based Appalachian Community Capital President and CEO Donna Gambrell.
In early April, Appalachian Community Capital plans to announce the list of 15 Opportunity Appalachia projects in the three states that it has chosen to assist and market to potential investors.
“We’ll be pushing hard to promote them and to provide the kind of technical assistance they think they need,” Gambrell says. Whether they need help creating pitch decks, developing a prospectus or putting together architectural site plans, Appalachian Community Capital and its partner organizations in the three states will provide technical assistance and help get the chosen projects in front of potential investors, she adds.
In January, hundreds of people attended an Opportunity Appalachia outreach meeting in Abingdon, which aimed to educate community leaders and entrepreneurs about opportunity zones, a federal program to encourage investment in overlooked communities, part of the 2017 congressional tax act.
In an effort to identify potential projects for investment, entrepreneurs were invited to make “Shark Tank”-like pitches for their projects — which included destination hotels, manufacturing facility upgrades, mill-site refurbishment and historic downtown renovations — to a panel of experts who provided feedback.
A multistate steering committee, which includes Virginia representatives from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Invest SWVA, has been reviewing the projects and will ultimately provide advice directly to the participating entrepreneurs.
Technical assistance and outreach meetings help attendees better understand opportunity zones and “how to pull all of the pieces together in a robust way,” says Shannon Blevins, U.Va. Wise’s associate vice chancellor for economic development and strategic initiatives.
“Each project is different,” Gambrell says. “Each one really speaks to the community’s desire to look at ways in which they can diversify the economy as well as grow and sustain the economy in their communities.”