USDA announces $150,000 grant to expand ECU’s Accelerate N.C. program

North Carolina

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Congressman G.K. Butterfield and U.S. Department of Agriculture leaders came to Greenville Monday to announce a $150,000 grant for East Carolina University.

The money is going to ECU’s Crisp Small Business Resource Center to expand the Accelerate N.C. program. The program helps small businesses in rural Eastern North Carolina. It’s a 10-week online course through ECU’s College of Business that aims to help entrepreneurs incorporate technology to expand their digital footprints.

“ECU serves these 29 counties in a very deep way,” said Justin Maxson, USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development. “They have the tools and the resources, the expertise and the connections necessary to make a $150,000 investment a transformational one.”

Right now, the course is offered at the same time to a group of students. This grant will change that, allowing the classes to be asynchronous.

“People will be able to access it at their own pace and we’ll work through community partners to be able to spread that and hopefully help thousands of businesses per year,” said David Mayo, director of ECU’s Crisp Small Business Resource Center.

ECU leaders said they will expand Accelerate N.C. to entrepreneurs across the state.

“I don’t think it stops at North Carolina, Eastern North Carolina,” said Michael Van Scott, ECU’s interim vice chancellor of Research, Economic Development and Engagement. “We’re going across the state. But this model, if we can demonstrate that it works should work across the country.”

Butterfield came to Greenville for the announcement and expressed happiness at what the grant will do.

“North Carolina rural development will be receiving significant amounts of money to invest in rural communities,” said Butterfield. “We need to build low-income housing. We need to empower small businesses to be able to compete with other businesses. We need to build out the broadband infrastructure.”

University officials said this grant is a two-for-one, helping both businesses and students.

“These funds provide our students with the chance to go out and work with businesses under supervision of faculty and mentors and work directly, real-world situations with those businesses,” said Van Scott.

Accelerate N.C. launched in September 2020. So far, it’s helped 93 businesses in Eastern North Carolina. Program leaders are looking forward to helping many more in year two.

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