Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: December 23, 2020
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alenaa Yarmosky, | Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development: Amanda Love,

Governor Northam Announces Community Business Launch Awards for Blackstone and Buena Vista

Grants totaling $90,000 will support entrepreneurial training and small business development programs

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced $90,000 in Community Business Launch (CBL) grants for the town of Blackstone and the city of Buena Vista. CBL provides funding to conduct business plan competitions and offer training to entrepreneurs that aligns with local and regional economic development strategies, primarily in Virginia’s downtown commercial districts. 

“This public health crisis has underscored the value of programs like CBL that prepare entrepreneurs for the rigors of operating in a fast-changing business environment,” said Governor Northam. “As we respond to the economic devastation this virus has caused and look ahead toward a post-pandemic future, Virginia will continue to use every resource available to support the small businesses that are the heart of our downtown commercial districts and the bedrock of our economy.”

Administered through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), CBL is a place-based entrepreneurial development initiative that helps fill vacant storefronts with community-based expansion or startup ventures. Local CBL programs train entrepreneurs, creatives, and small business owners on business planning practices, culminating with an opportunity for finalists to compete for grant funding and support services from the community to kick-start their new venture. 

“CBL supports communities in identifying businesses needed in their downtown districts and supporting those businesses beyond the grand opening,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “By combining training with a business plan competition, we are creating and nurturing strong local entrepreneurial ecosystems that will support current and future small business growth.”

Since 2014, $1.53 million in CBL funds have been awarded to 24 communities serving more than 450 participating entrepreneurs across Virginia. In total, CBL has garnered more than $2.25 million in private investment, with over 230 new full-time jobs created and at least 100 jobs retained.

Projects were reviewed and evaluated competitively, with an emphasis on those with the capacity to implement a successful campaign, alignment with regional or local strategies and the availability of matching resources. Five new applications for fiscal year 2021 requested a total $223,750 in funding. Grantees from fiscal year 2020 were offered extensions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional information about the CBL initiative can be found at

The following projects will be awarded CBL grants:

Blackstone Business Launch
Downtown Blackstone, Inc. and Town of Blackstone
The town of Blackstone and Downtown Blackstone, Inc. will host an eight-week business competition to diversify retail businesses and address vacancies created during the pandemic in the downtown district, potentially focusing on food-based businesses. Upon completion, Blackstone will produce or expand four businesses and create at least 10 jobs.

Buena Vista Community Business Launch
City of Buena Vista
The city of Buena Vista will host a 10-week business competition focused on its downtown. Buena Vista is currently using a Community Development Block Grant to develop an assessment of local assets and market potential for specific downtown retail businesses. As part of that assessment, the city sees hospitality, small-scale manufacturing, and web-based retail as part of the new business sector in the downtown district. Upon completion, Buena Vista will create or expand three businesses and create at least five jobs.

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