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The Advantage Valley economic development group this week will launch a new program called FASTER WV, which stands for Fostering Advantages for Start-Ups & Entrepreneurial Resurgence in West Virginia.

The launch will begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, with a one-hour online Zoom meeting for interested participants. The program is designed to assist entrepreneurs and new businesses in Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Cabell, Clay, Lincoln and Wayne counties.

The online Zoom meeting will be the first of a series of workshops for people who are interested in starting a new company or expanding an existing business.

FASTER WV will cater to startups and expansions in the following targeted sectors:

  • Food and beverage production
  • River and outdoor recreation/lodging
  • Dependent care
  • Health care
  • Small manufacturing
  • Construction trades

The program will offer business coaching, entrepreneurship training, sector-specific workshops and access to capital.

Participants will work with a Growth Wheel-certified business coach, either through the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam counties) or Unlimited Future Inc. (Cabell and Wayne counties).

Participants will have access to entrepreneurship classes that build essential business skills, either through BridgeValley Community and Technical College’s Kauffman FastTrac classes or Unlimited Future Inc.’s Planning for Profit classes. Both organizations will be offering eight-week, online Zoom classes quarterly at low or no cost to participants.

FASTER WV program participants who have completed entrepreneurial training classes can apply to a Revolving Loan Fund dedicated to businesses in the Advantage Valley region.

“We recognize that this may be a tough time to think about starting a new business venture,” said Advantage Valley Executive Director Terrell Ellis in a media release. “But we are hopeful that the current health and economic crisis will pass, and that those who have dreamed of owning their own business will be ready to pursue their passion when it does.

“This is a perfect time for people to explore their options. West Virginia has the lowest business startup rate in the country, and we want to change that. Our small businesses uniquely define us as a community and are the engines of our local economy,” Ellis said.

The FASTER WV collaborative partners include the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, BridgeValley Community and Technical College, Unlimited Future Inc. and the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority, manager of the Revolving Loan Fund.

Major funding for the FASTER WV program is provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, with additional support from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation and Unlimited Future Inc.

To register for the April 15 FASTER WV kickoff Zoom meeting, visit advantagevalley.com/faster-wv-initiative or call Advantage Valley at 304-352-1165.

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