Bacon Bits: Rural Development Edition

Seeding entrepreneurship. The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has approved $180,000 in seed-capital grants up to $10,000 for businesses that have been operating less than a year and have fewer than 10 full-time employees. The new businesses are projected to create $770,000 in total private investment and create 135 full-time and part-time jobs. Assuming the businesses deliver on their investment and jobs — not to be taken for granted — this looks like a promising approach to economic development. Since it started two years ago, reports the Bristol Herald-Courier, 53 businesses receiving micro-grants have generated $3.1 million in private investment and created 542 full- and -part-time jobs. Beats subsidizing an out-of-state company to build a light manufacturing plant and then shut it down 10 years later.

Addressing the doc shortage. Southwest Virginia has a chronic shortage of doctors, nurses and other health care providers. The United Company Foundation in Bristol is issuing a $1 million challenge grant to the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg to lower medical school debt for doctors who agree to practice in Southwest Virginia, reports the Roanoke Times. Two $40,000 scholarships will be awarded this spring to third-year medical students. After they complete their residencies, they will be required to work for three years in the region.

To plug the broadband gaps, first you have to find the broadband gaps.

The General Assembly has coughed up $19 million to help bring broadband to rural Virginia next year. But Virginia’s broadband guru, Evan Feinman, has identified a surprising obstacle: Private companies like Verizon and Comcast won’t tell the state where the service gaps are, reports Radio IQ. “If you call them and say, “I live at this address can I get connected? They can tell you yes or no. They will not share that information nationally,” Feinman says. Rather than creating maps that make proprietary information available to the public, the state now is encouraging incumbent Internet Service Providers to share the information with companies interested in filling the gaps without insisting that the state get involved.