June 24, 2013

The Launch Place — formerly called the Southside Business Technology Center — celebrated its move from Ringgold to the River District on Friday.

The Launch Place aims to be one-stop shopping for entrepreneurship development with consulting, mentorship, funding and real estate. In October, it received a $10 million grant from the Danville Regional Foundation to expand its services over five years. A $4 million seed fund has been established with that grant to help startups generate investments.

The organization commemorated its relocation with an open house featuring U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who commended the group’s efforts in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses in Southside Virginia.

“If you look at the United States of America over the last 25 years, 80 percent of all the new jobs that have been created have been created by start-ups,” Warner said. “And the notion that here in Southside, here at The Launch Place, you’re going to have that kind of collaborative ability to reinforce those entrepreneurs is really, really remarkable. The idea that you have a launch place that has the kind of technical support and financial support, and the ability to kind of co-locate and work through these things together is the secret sauce of creating new jobs.”

On top of talking about creating new jobs and building businesses in Danville, a major part of Warner’s focus hinged on foreign involvement in the U.S. economy — a component that he says will have an impact across America.

“I think it’s wonderful that The Launch Place has a notion of how we keep and retain, because one of the promises of the information age is that you can build it anywhere. If we can build it in Mumbai and Shanghai, we need to make sure we can build it in Danville, in Martinsville and South Boston as well.”

Warner also explained he’s currently working with legislators in Washington to pass laws enabling foreign entrepreneurs to continue building businesses in the United States, including places like the Dan River Region, which he says would benefit from the increased pool of talent and employment opportunities.

“I’ve been told there are 10 different languages spoken here at The Launch Place,” he said. “[In Washington] we are right now debating an immigration bill. And all the debate right now is about border security, are we gonna double or triple our border security, are people going to have the ability to earn citizenship … but the other part of the immigration bill that’s terribly important for The Launch Place, for Southside, for America to get right is to make sure that we also recruit and keep some of the high-skilled talent in the world.”

By: Brittany Hughes