Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander (center) leads NSU and Norfolk CIty officials in historic ribbon cutting (Photo by: NSU)

By Leonard E. Colvin

Norfolk State University (NSU) has emerged as an important cog in the city of Norfolk’s and the region’s educational and job creation machinery.

Members of NSU’s business school faculty and administration joined Norfolk city leaders recently to put that reputation on dismay as they cut the ribbon on the new Norfolk State University Innovation Center (NSUIC) – On the Main.

The new center is an example of a partnership and collaboration between Norfolk to enable the HBCU to create a presence in the city’s main business corridor.

Also, it brings NSU’s resources to the city’s revitalized downtown, with anticipation of developing and promoting, educational and employment opportunities for NSU students and Norfolk and Hampton Roads residents, in general.

According to NSU leaders and city officials, the center’s prime location will allow NSU to engage with local and national firms located downtown such as Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP), a human resources management company. ADP alone has created 2,000 of the thousands of new jobs in Norfolk over the past three years.

“Since becoming mayor, I have been trying to get NSU to have a better presence downtown,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenneth C. Alexander.

“This center will provide opportunities for NSU graduates and grad students. We want the school to engage the business, banking, legal, retail, and community downtown to illustrate its track record of producing talent and what NSU has to offer.”

NSU’s main campus is located in the central Brambleton section of Norfolk, just two miles from its NSUIC. The new center is easily accessible by car, the city’s light rail, and the traditional public bus system.

“We are hoping to foster partnerships for innovation, planning, for the business sector and the students,” the Mayor said. “We are also talking about internships, apprenticeships, and future employment. NSU has a good track record at creating energetic and competent entrepreneurs.”

Calling it “inclusive growth and development,” the Mayor also said the city hopes the NSUIC will help in expanding the number of Small, Female, and Minority and Black-owned and operated firms downtown and other parts of the city and region.

According to the city and NSU, the center’s immediate service will be as a business incubator to develop business competitiveness, jobs creation, investment opportunities, infrastructural improvements, global inclusion and participation within the Hampton Roads community.

NSU is leasing the space for the NSUIC Commercial Place Building at 520 E. Main Street in a city-owned building which houses a garage and street-level retail space.

It is across the street from a row of taller buildings that house banking giants PNC, BBBT, and it is two blocks from the new ICON apartment complex (formerly Bank of America), the MacArthur Center Mall, and the Slover Library.

Bright and open space with the NSU green and gold colors, the center features several private offices, a kitchenette, a few sitting areas with televisions capable of video-conferencing, and a conference table that can be separated from the rest of the space with panels.

Students can use the co-working space for free. Non-students may acquire a one-time day pass or pay $60 a month to use it.

Glenn Carrington has been Dean of the NSU School of Business since 2017. He said the role of the NSUIC is part of the school’s effort to create a bridge to the greater business community.

He graduated from NSU in 1977, after enrolling on a basketball scholarship.

The UVA Law School graduate said the center will be used as space for business incubation, where traditional university business classes, seminars, forums and a speaking series can be held in the space.

The various events will enable the city to create an inclusive and accessible location addressing the needs of business start-ups and small businesses.

Carrington said one of the first significant tasks for the center will be conducting a survey to determine the problems entrepreneurs have and find solutions to them.

From 1980 until he retired in 2016, Carrington crafted a varied and stellar career after law school including counsel and other executive positions with the IRS, Caplin and

Drysdale, Arthur Andersen, Deloitte and Touche Partners and at Ernst and Young LLP.

He said one of the problems facing entrepreneurs and small businesses is the inability to secure stabilizing capital.

He said that while white women typically receive about 2 percent of so-called “angel” investment capital, African-American women receive .02 percent.

He said the center will invite successful business people “to tell their stories to people “who use the center during forums to educate entrepreneurs on how to cultivate and secure investment dollars.

Carrington said he wants to establish partnerships with existing agencies such as the Small Business Administration and Old Dominion University to access their expertise and resources so “we will not have to reinvent the wheel.”

This article originally appeared in the New Journal and Guide.

Norfolk And NSU Partner On Downtown Presence For University

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