Tech accelerator gets infusion of federal funding

Springfield’s Black River Innovation Campus is one of several technology accelerators to receive $2.2 million in federal funding.File photo of Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Technology accelerators in Springfield, Randolph and Rutland are receiving $2.2 million in federal funding to support technology entrepreneurship.

Funding comes from the Build to Scale program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency.

The Heartland-based Rural Innovation Center, which supports entrepreneurship in creating skilled jobs in rural communities, helped secure the grant.

The center assesses a community’s potential for success as a rural technology hub, said founder and executive director Matt Dunne, who has served in the legislature and ran for governor as a Democrat.

“Randolph’s assessment does suggest it’s a great place,” said Erica Hoffman-Kies, executive director of Randolph-based Green Mountain Economic Development, which expects to receive about 300,000 to 400,000. dollar funding.

Hoffman-Kiess cited the town’s broadband access, the presence of Vermont Technical College, the community’s investment in revitalizing downtown, and its location in the middle of Interstate 89 between Boston and Montreal, which she said is a developing Technology corridor.

The Black River Innovation Campus in Springfield, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development in the Rutland region, will also receive funding.

Dunn and the governor said federal grants would require a one-to-one match. Phil Scott and the Legislature have budgeted $500,000 in matching funds based on appropriations.

“It illustrates the collaborative spirit between Vermont’s public and private entities to accomplish similar work and be able to create future jobs in rural Vermont,” Dunn said.

Springfield and Randolph’s organizations together received $1.5 million in federal funding, Hoffman-Kess said.

The state provided $333,000 in matching funds for the two programs, with the remaining $1.2 million in matching funds from individual donors, higher education partners, companies and foundations, including the Siegel Family Endowment, a national foundation focused on technology , Dunne and Heihe Innovation Park Deputy Executive Director Chris Macgiolo said.

Dunn said the new grant will be used to expand the program in Springfield and launch a technology accelerator and incubator in Randolph. (Incubators are physical spaces for startups, while accelerators are programs that help them grow, he explained.)

Jepsen said the Economic Development Authority is distributing $734,000 to the Rutland Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. He said his organization was able to raise an additional $759,000. Of that, $400,000 came from the City of Rutland, $166,000 from the state, and $45,000 from Rutland Regional Medical Center, among others.

Dunn said Springfield has been working on developing a technology accelerator for years and received its first scale-up grant in 2018, when it started the innovation campus that would later become the Park Street School Building. He said Springfield has been successful in attracting tech startups and founders of new companies.

Following the first grant, Springfield’s Black River Innovation Campus began renovating the old school building, with some programs beginning in 2019. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the launch of the incubator and accelerator program was delayed until 2021, Maggiolo said.

Since that launch, Heihe Innovation Park has partnered with 16 startups, Maggiolo said. Additionally, he said, the organization helps dozens of businesses in the community with digital outreach and hardware issues, and connects digital and technology professionals with those who need their services.

The Heihe Innovation Park received a special grant of $3 million guaranteed by U.S. senators. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and nearly $2 million from the state earlier this year. Dunn said the money was not used for programming, but for the ongoing renovation of the campus and downtown buildings.

Marguerite Dibble, the program’s interim executive director and founder of her own Burlington-based GameTheory, said the Black River Innovation Park will use the latest grants to rotate four batches of businesses through its program each year. Family.

Dibble grew up in Landgrove, where her parents were paint contractors.

“Growing up, I was raised by the accepted fact that it is very difficult for anyone in rural Vermont to have a home that doesn’t support or in some way a local economy based on second home owners or tourism. business,” Dibble said.

Times have changed. Dibble counts Springfield’s “superfast internet” as an asset, making it ideal for a technology incubator.

At Randolph, Hoffman-Kiess envisions a collaboration on advanced manufacturing with Vermont Institute of Technology and Norwich University in Northfield on cybersecurity. The idea, she said, is to start working on the Vermont Tech campus and possibly provide a second meeting space at the Village Center for outreach and virtual classes.

“It’s kind of like merging these two things that don’t seem to go together, and this bucolic with some pretty high-tech stuff that’s happening that’s part of the international market,” Hoffman-Kiess said. A small river valley in central Vermont.”

Rutland now also has the opportunity to start a high-tech incubator.

“The income we need to flow into the region may be a bit higher than some of our current populations,” said Lyle Jepson, executive director of the Rutland Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development.

Jepsen said Rutland’s business incubator will be located in the Opera House, Merchant Street and nearby buildings.

“We have excellent fiber internet,” Jepsen said. “Our city centre is ready for something like this. We want the whole city centre to be the hub.”

In addition to Rutland, Springfield and Randolph, the Rural Innovation Center supports projects in Windham County and the Northeast Kingdom.

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