Virginia Tech® home

Connecting to Economic Development Resources: A Guide for Virginia Entrepreneurs



Authors as Published

Conaway B. Haskins III, Economic Development Specialist, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Navigating the universe of economic development resources in Virginia can be a challenge for businesses and entrepreneurs alike. The wide variety of programs and organizations can prove confusing to even the savviest entrepreneurs. This publication is designed to introduce entrepreneurs to key regional, state and federal economic development services available in and around the state to support their small businesses.

Virginia’s Entrepreneurial Economy

Virginia was founded as an entrepreneurial venture of the British Crown in 1607, and it is regularly ranked among the top quartile of states for indicators such as: business climate, low corporate taxes, low unemployment rates, university R&D, STEM jobs and venture capital. Nearly 98% of all companies in the state have fewer than 100 workers; over three-quarters of businesses having fewer than 10 employees.

  Virginia Companies by Workforce Size
Employees Companies % Total % State GDP
1-10 194,366 77% 24%
11-100 52,740 21% 34%
101-250 3,643 1.5% 13%
250+ 1,368 0.5% 29%
All Companies 252,117 100.0% 100%

Sources: Virginia Economic Development Partnership IMPLAN/NETS; Virginia Employment Commission Q4 2016 QCEW; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Despite small businesses comprising such a large share of companies in the Commonwealth, there is room for improvement in the dynamics of the state’s entrepreneurial economy. According to the Kauffman Foundation (2017) national reports on state-level entrepreneurial activity, among the 25 largest states, Virginia comes in:

  • 1st for Growth Entrepreneurship (out of 25 largest states)

  • 12th for Main Street Entrepreneurship (out of 25 largest states)

  • 17th Startup Activity (out of 25 largest states)

As lines between community development, small business development and “traditional” economic development have blurred, getting to know the universe of available small resources in Virginia can prove challenging. Research by VCE indicates that over 300 public and private organizations are actively supporting and serving entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth in some manner (Haskins 2018). This wide variety of programs and organizations can prove confusing to even the savviest entrepreneurs because:

  • Over a dozen state government agencies spread across five Cabinet secretaries support some form of small business development

  • 50+ regional planning commissions, regional economic development organizations, workforce development boards & other quasi-governmental entities with similar responsibilities.

  • 300+ municipal governments (95 counties, 38 cities, 190 incorporated towns) with dizzying arrays of tools and regulations pertaining to small businesses

  • 38 public higher education institutions (23 community colleges, 15 universities) charged with enhancing economic development via research, workforce education and startup formation.

Fortunately, there are several dozen federal and state agencies – plus regional entrepreneurship organizations - that can help guide businesses to the help they need.

Key Federal Resources

  • The US Small Business Administration Richmond District office serves most Virginia communities and administers a variety of leading programs. Visit:

  • USDA’s Rural Development State Office serves as an information gateway to accessing a variety of business-building services. Visit:

  • Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) provides volunteer business counselors who are usually experienced entrepreneurs and executives trained to work with entrepreneurs. Visit

  • Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) offers free and low-cost assistance to businesses who want to participate in local, state and/or federal government contracting:

  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a dedicated Stakeholder Liaison for Virginia Small Business (804-916-3848-office):

Key State Resources

  • VA Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) has over 20 regional centers providing free/low-cost assistance, esp. business and financial planning. Visit to find the SBDC nearest to you.

  • VA Dept. of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) has staff based around the state to assist with government procurement, business development, and enterprise finance. Visit for access to their resources.

  • VA Dept. of Housing and Community Development offers technical assistance programs to communities to support entrepreneurs. Visit and select Business for a list of programs.

  • Virginia Career Works offers a variety of human capital development and training services for businesses and workers. Visit and select Employers for a list of programs.

  • VA Tourism Corporation (VTC) has statewide staff and resources to support development, expansion & marketing. Visit (see: Tourism Development) for contacts and services.

  • VA Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services has statewide staff who promote agriculture, consumer protection & environment including grant programs for enterprises. Visit (see: Agriculture & Forestry Development).

  • VA Economic Development Partnership has regional, statewide national & global staff promoting business recruitment, expansion & trade. Visit and scan the website for resources for existing businesses.

  • Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) promotes technology-based economic development through investing in and advising innovative technology startups and companies. Visit for information about their programs and services.

  • VA Office of Outdoor Recreation is a gubernatorial initiative to support the growth and development of Virginia’s outdoor recreation industry. Visit for more information.

VCE Agriculture & Food Business Programs

Notable Regional Entrepreneurship Support Initiatives

Most regions of the state now have active entrepreneurship ecosystem organizations that offer access to education, networking & financial resources. These entities can be valuable resources for entrepreneurs to access capital, connections, and customers:



Small Business Resource Guides & Websites


Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. (2017). “The Kauffman Index: Entrepreneurship Series.”

Gines, D. (2014). “Grow Your Own Entrepreneurship-based Economic Development for Local Communities.” Kansas City: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Haskins, C. (2018). “Growing Local Economies through Entrepreneurship: A Guide for Community Leaders.” AAEC165-NP. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech

Lyon-Hill, S. et al. (2017) “Same Ecosystem, Different Entrepreneurs: An assessment model for measuring diverse entrepreneurial ecosystems.” Blacksburg: Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development.

Macke, D. et al. (2014). “Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities: A Pathway to Prosperity.” Lincoln: Center for Rural Entrepreneurship

Meyers, M. “Making (and Measuring) and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.” Economic Development Journal, Vol. 14, No. 3, Summer 2015.

Pages, E. (2014) “Promoting Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Your Community.” Presentation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Basic Economic Development Course

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, ethnicity or national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or military status, or any other basis protected by law.

Publication Date

January 22, 2020