Alleghany Highlands and Lexington get state grants for economic development

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CLIFTON FORGE, Va. (WDBJ7) The governor today announced nearly $234,000 in grants for building entrepreneurial economies, several of which went to our area. The grants go to local governments and non-profits to help with developing new businesses.

Downtown Clifton Forge, for example, is place with its share of For Sale signs in windows, but also with a couple fewer thanks to new business development.

“The Alleghany Highlands has been predominately a manufacturing community and region," explains Marla Akridge of the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation. "And this is a jump start for a paradigm shift, to realize you can be your own boss and you can be an entrepreneur.”

But how do you convert an empty storefront into a thriving, open business?

“They know the dream, but they just don’t know how to get the resources put together and an understanding of getting their LLC, finding a marketing strategy for their business, and putting the puzzle together, as I call it, to get their resources for funding,” says Akridge.

In Lexington, the outreach is through a “Collaboratory” makerspace.

“It’s going help us buy some equipment to put in our Makerspace, but also to create a pool of mentors and business advisors," says Stephanie Wilkinson from Main Street Lexington. "So that when people come up with great ideas, they’re actually helped to turn them into businesses.”

They’ve already been having events in the makers space for a couple of months, but this new grant provides the financial foundation to move forward.

“It should be a really interesting time for the makers space and for Lexington," says Wilkinson. "Because we’ll be building on what we’ve started here, but this grant just gets us on to the next lever.”

A level that both communities hope see a lot more new open signs.

“They can have their dream come true,” says Akridge.