Strasburg unveils business launch plans

Leslie Currle, business development manager for People Inc., speaks to the gathering inside Strasburg Town Council chambers Thursday morning during the Rev- Up Strasburg program that features small-business grant awards from the state. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Prospective new businesses considering Strasburg can now apply to compete for grant money through “Rev-Up Strasburg,” the town’s Community Business Launch program.

Rev-Up Strasburg will provide six weeks of marketing and business training for participants and hold a competition for the most promising business plans in the spring, providing incentives for new and expanding businesses to set up shop in downtown Strasburg and create local jobs.

Mayor Tim Taylor introduced the program and its goals at a news conference Thursday morning.

“Small, local businesses are vital to a successful downtown,” he said. “This program is where the rubber hits the road, as they say, because it will actually help create new small businesses in our downtown. Everyone wants to see the storefronts occupied, and this will help accomplish that.”

The town is partnering with People Inc. of Virginia to offer the training starting on April 20 after an April 7 kick-off event at Hotel Strasburg. Applications will be open through April 10.

Robert Goldsmith, president and CEO of People Inc., gave a few remarks before introducing Leslie Currle, a business development manager at the Woodstock office.

“We have done similar projects in several other communities, and there’s never been one that’s had this level of energy behind it,” Goldsmith said.

Currle said that after a pitch night on June 1, program judges will select at least three winning businesses that will receive their awards on June 8 and open by Sep. 30.

“That is a tight timeline, but we’ve got everything in place and all the people in place to work with them – it can happen,” she said.

Town Manager Ryan Spitzer said the program would focus on settling the participants in the historic downtown area with the possibility of incentives, but that locations farther north on U.S. 11 could be under consideration if circumstances required it.

“Part of the reason for that is they want to cluster the new businesses so that they can feed off of each other and help each other and kind of pool the resources,” Currle added.

Currle said a James Madison University study had determined what kinds of businesses might do well in town, such as breweries or ice cream shops. But Rev-Up Strasburg will be open to any existing businesses or entrepreneurs that wish to apply. Past that, she said the training will be free and open to prospective businesses still in the developmental stage so they can learn and network.

“We are also encouraging people that may not be ready to compete this year to still take part in the educational program,” she said.

In addition to the program model and requirements, Currle announced a mentorship program that will partner up all participants with community business leaders after the award ceremony on June 8.

“The mentorship program was something that was suggested, but something we want to take to a whole new level because it’s so important not only to help generate new business, but to help existing businesses,” she said.

Strasburg was among six other towns and cities selected by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in December to receive Virginia Community Business Launch grants for the program’s second year. Strasburg received $60,000 out of the total $420,000 awarded. Last year, more than 14 businesses in three communities received anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000 in grant money, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Learn more about the program and application at http://rev-upstrasburg.com.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com