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Huntington donates to B&E school to help fund Startup Engine

MORGANTOWN — Two gifts from Huntington Bank will help get a new Startup Engine business accelerator going at the WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics.

Huntington committed $2 million to the Startup Engine, including a $500,000 charitable grant through the WVU Foundation for the operation of the business accelerator and the provision of $1.5 million for a venture capital fund managed through Mountain State Capital on behalf of the accelerator program, according to a press release from WVU.

“We are proud to partner with WVU to help unlock the entrepreneurial potential in our state by supporting innovation and providing access to capital through the accelerator program,” said Chad Prather, regional president of Huntington Bank in West Virginia. “Startups play a foundational role in driving economic growth and job creation. The accelerator program will inspire and provide valuable resources to entrepreneurs in our state while also fostering economic self-sufficiency through economic development, financial education and social services.”
The Startup Engine houses WVU’s first startup accelerator program and is designed to attract, select and accelerate startup businesses focused on the sectors and industries identified in the West Virginia Forward report, helping those startups to hone ideas, access seed capital, develop mentor relationships and partner with existing businesses, the release said. The ultimate objective of the program is to support the diversification of West Virginia’s economy, as well as the push to move the state into the innovation economy.

Javier Reyes, Milan Puskar Dean of WVU’s business school, said the commitment to create the Startup Engine was the result of extensive collaboration with WVU alumnus and former Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers, for whom the college was named last month.

“This is a commitment to a mindset of innovation, creating startup companies and effecting change,” Reyes said in the release. “John Chambers helped us create the Startup Engine and has put his resources behind this business accelerator. The mission of the Startup Engine is to generate new companies, build an environment of innovation and propel us into the digital economy. This is an exciting project — not just for the business school, WVU and the City of Morgantown, but also for the entire state of West Virginia. Huntington understands what the mission of the Startup Engine is and wants to take a leadership role in continuing this wave of change.”
Reyes is also vice president for Startup West Virginia. In this new role, WVU President Gordon Gee said Reyes “will position the university to both engage with coordinated statewide efforts and to affect implementation and impact to grow and diversify West Virginia’s economy.”
Huntington Bancshares Inc. is a regional bank holding company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

Prather said the goal is to attract fledgling companies to grow in West Virginia, with the hope they will choose to stay in the state.

“We are firmly committed to the economic future of West Virginia,” said Prather. “This investment will attract companies to our state where they will receive world-class support to grow their businesses. There’s so much to offer here, and we know they will want to make West Virginia their permanent home.”

Reyes said the gifts from Huntington provide a solid launch for the Startup Engine to make a difference in West Virginia.

WV Forward is a partnership with the West Virginia Department of Commerce and Marshall University to help identify and pair West Virginia’s unique assets with economic trends that will leverage growth and development opportunities to strengthen and diversify all regions of the state.

The Startup Engine is part of the WVU Innovation, Design and Entre-preneurship Applied Eco-system, a university-wide network of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship among WVU students, faculty and staff while engaging the statewide community, the release said.