$2 million donation from Huntington Bank fuels WVU startup program

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The engine is nearly built. The driver’s are being recruited. Now, the John Chambers College of Business & Economics has the fuel.

Huntington Bank announced the donation of $2 million to the Startup Engine, announced as a major part of the college’s future plans following the donations former CISCO CEO John Chambers made to his alma mater’s B&E school.

$1.5 million will be used for a venture capital fund managed through Mountain State Capital on behalf of the accelerator program. A $500,000 charitable grant through the WVU Foundation will help operate the business accelerator.

“I definitely think we are on the right track to start fueling the job creation in this state — not only from the John Chambers College of Business, not only from WVU, but across the state by focusing on how do we bring the innovation economy into West Virginia,” Dr. Javier Reyes, the school’s Dean, said Wednesday.

Part of Chambers donation, which included changing the school’s name in his honor, was intellectual capital — the mind needed to help the new Startup Engine rev the minds of entrepreunurial West Virginians.

“We’re going to be looking for specific talent to be brought to the table to help us guide the Startup Engine,” Reyes said. “There’s going to be different arms of it. And, as early as March, we should be out there looking for a couple of talented individuals who will help us guide the accelerator program, guide our incubator we are providing.”

“We already have some leads, I’m not going to lie” he added. “But we want to get more talent to the table, and we know there’s a lot of talented West Virginians out there that can help us.”

Leadership from Huntington Bank told WVU Today their intention is to invest in bringing talented people to West Virginia — or perhaps even back to West Virginia.

“Propel the economic engine — more business development that would attract the students, professionals that left to come back, and plop themselves into this economic development effort that we’re trying to do.”

Reyes said it ties into one of President Gordon Gee’s major initiatives — ending the West Virginia brain drain and keeping talented Mountaineers at home.

“Let’s provide great opportunities for our West Virginians to lead, to come back, or to stay,” Reyes said.

Additionally, Reyes said the program will not work if it only focuses on Morgantown — suggesting that towns like Fairmont, Lewisburg, and elsewhere can and should benefit from the introduction of new startup companies.

“This is exactly where it needs to go,” he said. “It’s just now making sure it’s across the state. We, perhaps, start with Morgantown because that is where we are located, but that we don’t lose sight of we have to get the whole state involved.”

Another possibility, Reyes said, is the creation of a domino effect — see communities form and coalesce around new startup companies and watch other, larger companies come to new burgeoning economic markets.

“You will start seeing, really, spots of innovation hubs being created,” he said.

The B&E Startup Engine will be located on the bottom floor of University Place in Sunnyside, according to WVU Today.

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