Funds initiative

Program provides help to companies that want to invest in the city

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Chuck Rigney, Norfolk’s director of economic
development. Photo by Mark Rhodes

Norfolk has created NorfolkFirst, an initiative that provides four funds to help companies that want to invest in Norfolk.

The program includes: the Citywide Partnership Fund, the Global Initiatives Fund, Innovation Fund and the Grow Norfolk Fund.

The city is using federal community development block grants as well as other federal resources through grant programs “that we have never really deployed in this fashion,” says Chuck Rigney, the city’s director of economic development.

The Innovation Fund focuses on financing for startups and early-stage companies in targeted areas, such as technology, health care and life sciences, that are focused on sustainability and resiliency.

The Citywide Partnership Fund helps provide a portion of gap financing for small, expanding businesses engaged in brick-and-mortar projects, such as housing, retail and commercial projects. “We want to make sure the borrower has skin in the game,” Rigney says.

The Grow Norfolk Fund offers assistance to small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses that need money for expansion.

The Global Initiatives Fund, the first of its kind in Virginia, offers capital to local companies to support export-related activities.

“A very small percentage of U.S. businesses export,” Rigney says, noting the Norfolk-based Virginia Port Authority creates prime exporting opportunities. “There is real money to be made for our companies with products that will sell well in other countries.”

Local firms can access this fund, initially capitalized at $250,000, to participate in trade missions and to connect with prospective buyers. They can pair Global Initiatives Fund capital with trade finance services from the Small Business Administration.

The city has hired Sandra Choi to focus on increasing the number of export activities for Norfolk companies. “Her job is to tell people why exporting may be a way for them to increase their sales. She will have seminars and conferences and reach out to local businesses,” Rigney says.

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