An economic development organization with a goal of major league growth has developed a help system for small businesses modeled after professional baseball's minor leagues.
The Advantage Valley Entrepreneurial League System, which was launched Tuesday, is a tiered learning organization designed to link entrepreneurs with resources and mentors. Business owners will be assigned to one of four classes _ rookie, class A, AA, and AAA _ based on their skill level.
"Our goal is to create a critical mass of highly skilled entrepreneurs to begin to change the culture of this region," said Mark Burdette, co-founder of Citynet and general manager of the venture. "We want to transform this community and build wealth."
Many small-business owners do not know where to go for advice and may feel isolated, he said.
"This is the missing piece," Burdette said.
Advantage Valley hopes to have 12 entrepreneurs in each class, with a goal of graduating to next the level after one year.
Burdette said the league is a way to change the focus of economic development from luring one employer with 100 jobs to helping 100 small businesses add one job.
If the league is successful, it could be used as a model for other regions of West Virginia. Helping small businesses grow is key to improving West Virginia's economy, Burdette said.
Advantage Valley received $350,000 from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to launch the league.
Advantage Valley is an economic development organization that extends from Montgomery to Huntington and includes Ashland, Ky., and Ironton, Ohio. Burdette had served as co-chairman of the group's entrepreneurial task force before resigning to pursue the general manager position. He also founded and is chairman of the annual West Virginia Conference on Entrepreneurship.
Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.com