Dominion: Supporting small business and innovation

by Ben Wrobel

published October 31, 2016

For Dominion, supporting small business innovation just makes sense.

After all, the company needs its supplier base – the network of people and businesses providing it with goods and services – to be as efficient, productive and creative as possible. And fostering small business development helps create more opportunities and growth for the communities Dominion serves.

So the company welcomed the opportunity to become a Presenting Partner for the 2016 Virginia Velocity Tour in September.

“The Dominion Foundation’s grant to the Virginia Velocity Tour was a natural fit. We applaud its mission of supporting promising start-ups that apply new solutions to difficult problems. These entrepreneurs could be the source of the next big breakthrough,” said Hunter Applewhite, president of the Dominion Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm.

“Virginia is poised to lead in the future of industries that really matter, like clean energy. We appreciate the Dominion Foundation’s support of the Virginia Velocity Tour. And we welcome the company’s efforts to help develop the work force that will create those innovations while also creating jobs,” said Ross Baird, CEO of Village Capital, a co-sponsor of the tour along with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Dominion’s backing of the tour builds on another example of the company’s commitment to supporting entrepreneurship: the Dominion Resources Innovation Center (DRIC).

The center is a technology incubator that offers help to start-up firms with assistance such as networking, mentoring, high-level business strategy, and special events and classes. Topics covered at DRIC events in the past 12 months have ranged from the future of cars to brand protection to the art of crafting the perfect pitch speech.

The DRIC also provides office and lab space for emerging entrepreneurs at its headquarters, a renovated fire station in downtown Ashland. Another bonus for the tenants is access to many research resources at the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park at VCU.

During 2016, the former firehouse has incubated four companies pursuing new solutions in fields that include medical and dental technology, outdoor recreation safety and green alternatives for solid waste management. More than twenty fledgling firms have found a home at the DRIC since 2009, when the center was founded with a $250,000 Dominion donation, spread over five years. The company continues to provide the center with $50,000 in annual support.

“The Dominion Resources Innovation Center is very pleased that we can provide collaborative workspace, resources, and the guidance necessary to support emerging high growth startups in the area, “ said Dominic Costanzo, the center’s director since 2015. “The continued generosity of Dominion speaks volumes to their commitment to innovation and is vital to building the infrastructure needed to support the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The DRIC is also important in supporting the local community, as well. Small businesses are a major part of the town of Ashland, and DRIC’s location there is helping to make the locality, only 15 miles from downtown Richmond, a solid part of the startup system that is flourishing in the metro area.

“Dominion is a tremendous leader of innovation. Their contribution to the Virginia Velocity Tour demonstrates their support of this type of activity – and we were fortunate to have GoGo Band, a team from our Dominion Resources Innovation Center, as one of the competitors during the September tour,” said Carrie Roth, chair of the DRIC board of directors and president and CEO of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park. “Our major innovative companies, like Dominion, are drivers of a supportive environment for more start-ups to launch and to increase our region’s competitive advantage.”