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Conference focuses on small business


Virginia has come full circle since Jodi Raskind’s college years.

Raskind, the director of a microloan program in the U.S. Small Business Administration, started college at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge. This was before interstates and highway bypasses made it easy to get to Clifton Forge from Northern Virginia.

“My father once said to me, You know, we have to pass 13 colleges on the way to where you go to college. Why can’t you go to one of those?” Raskind said.

The trend toward building bypasses and interstates was meant to divert through traffic away from cities and towns.

“Now we want people to come off the bypass and come off the interstate to see what we have to offer in our cities and towns,” Raskind said in the keynote speech at the Revitalizing Neighborhoods through Entrepreneurism conference that wrapped Friday at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Downtown Staunton.

The conference, hosted by the Virginia Enterprise Network and Virginia Main Street, highlighted ongoing community-development efforts in Staunton, with a presentation on Staunton’s efforts to nurture small-business development from Meghan Williamson, the executive director of the Staunton Creative Community Fund, and talks led by several local and regional small-business owners.

Sustainable development was another area of focus, with seminars on the burgeoning green economy bringing attention to local and regional efforts to jumpstart ecofriendly business and industry.

Another highlight was Sam Nickels from the Friendly City Food Co-op in Harrisonburg, which is on track toward an April 2011 opening for its local, member-owned grocery.

“It’s an interesting time to open a grocery store, given the current economic climate,” said Nickels, who spelled out the co-op’s five-year effort to raise $1.8 million toward the opening of the store.

“We’re looking forward to becoming a significant social enterprise business and having an impact on Harrisonburg, Rockingham County and surrounding areas,” Nickels said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at [email protected].



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