Staunton groups work on plans for innovation lab
Christina Cain is hoping to create a culture of innovation in Staunton. “We want to prepare people to meet the future needs of enterprise,” says Cain, executive director of the Staunton Creative Community Fund (SCCF).
Her organization plans to create an innovation lab, tentatively called The Reactor. It would provide a place for entrepreneurs to get financial, educational and technical assistance in getting startup companies off the ground.
In addition to co-working space, the lab would include “maker space” to develop product prototypes.
SCCF has been working on the lab for about a year. Its core partners in the project include: Staunton Makerspace, Mary Baldwin University, the city of Staunton, Skylar Innovations and the Staunton Downtown Development Association. “We have been talking about a physical place to be a catalyst for ingenuity and creativity when it comes to business,” Cain says.
She wants to ensure that the lab will be more than a co-working space. “One of the things that those co-working spaces don’t do is provide the intuitive and qualitative resources you need to get a business started,” she says.
The project now is in a planning phase after two of its partners received grants. Creative Community Fund was awarded a $40,000 grant through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development in November. In addition, Staunton Downtown Development Association got a $12,500 Virginia Main Street grant in October. Both grants will support a feasibility study to help locate a building and hire a team of architects.
“The grants will help us pay for the real, hard costs of getting this initiative into a building in Staunton,” Cain says, adding that there are quite a few structures in the city that would be a good fit.
SCCF also has an initiative that helps people invest in the community. “Those dollars can be used as leverage to raise more money,” Cain says.
One of the most important aspects of the project is the opportunity it presents for collaboration among community groups, she adds. “We will have the chance to show how well a wide variety of organizations can get things done in a public-private partnership.”