SmartUp effort to start in EC in Sept.


Russ Haddad


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Representatives of the Kenan Institute in Chapel Hill plan to visit Elizabeth City next month to learn more about local businesses and kick off the SmartUp initiative here.

SmartUp is a business incubator strategy being funded by a $950,000 grant from the Sun Trust Foundation. The Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is using the grant to promote entrepreneurship in Elizabeth City, North Charleston, S.C., and a third community to be named later.

Early plans for the project envision a key role for Elizabeth City State University, but ECSU’s Russ Haddad said the initiative will also include Mid-Atlantic Christian University, College of The Albemarle, local economic development officials and other key players in the community such as the U.S. Coast Guard.

Haddad said SmartUp will fit well with the InnovatEC initiative.

Begun about a year and a half ago, InnovateEC started bringing together local leaders in education, government and business to discuss ways to promote business development in the Elizabeth City area. The Kenan Institute was already providing support to InnovatEC through its NCGrowth program, but SmartUp will add more support to the effort.

A key part of SmartUp will be a coordinator who will be hired to work for three years to identify gaps in services already being provided to new and growing businesses, and to work on filling those gaps.

More information on the SmartUp kickoff event in Elizabeth City will be announced later. Haddad said the Elizabeth City kickoff will be the first such event for the entire SmartUp initiative.

In addition to providing SmartUp project staff additional information about the business climate in Elizabeth City, the kickoff event will also provide local residents an opportunity to learn more about SmartUp.

City Manager Rich Olson said the SmartUp investment in Elizabeth City is a welcome opportunity.

“The city welcomes the opportunity to participate in anything we can do to make our community better,” Olson said. “We look forward to partnering with our educational institutions in this initiative.”

The SmartUp business incubators are designed to help startup companies hire local workers and address issues such as unemployment, underemployment, low wages and significant poverty, according to a press release from the Kenan Institute.