OED Weekly Roundup: Week of Feb. 22, 2016

This week in economic development news in Southwest Virginia and beyond:

NuSpark, a free office space for entrepreneurs and startups located in the North End building in Blacksburg, closed its doors after two years of operation and several successful company launches. The space, funded by the Virginia Tech Foundation, is set to be repurposed, but the concept will continue to live on. According to Benjamin Knapp, director of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology, the four remaining NuSpark teams have been transitioned into the ICAT Sandbox, where they will continue to develop and grow their start-ups. See the full Roanoke Times’ story, “NuSpark space goes dark, but concept lives on,” here.

Beer has come to Virginia Tech in a big way – in an on-campus, state-of-the art new brewhouse and malting system. Not only does the new system offer teaching and research opportunities within the College of Architecture and Life Sciences, it also helps the university fulfill its land-grant mission through research in fermentation and brewing that will help guide the beer industry. After the barley in the brewhouse has been spent, the researchers in the lab across from the brewhouse are investigating ways to reuse the barley for fuel and plastic, rounding out the ongoing project with an environmentally-friendly focus. The new venture is part of the Department of Food Science and Technology’s “Innovation Collaboratory,” which is a collaboration point for industry and research. Read University Relations’ full press release, “Virginia Tech hops into the farm-to-glass craft beer movement with new brewhouse on campus,” here.

In statewide economic news, Virginia has become the largest agricultural exporter to Cuba of any U.S. state, based on the $42 million earned from soybean sales to the country last year. Though it falls short of the Virginia-Cuba trading peak of $66 million, it’s still a giant leap from 2014’s $25 million. The trading is a result of Virginia’s commitment to relations with Cuba since the United States lifted some major restrictions on agricultural and medical exports in 2003, when then-governor Mark R. Warner began to build the Virginia-Cuba ties by sending representatives to Cuba’s annual trade fair. For more on the story, see The Washington Post’s story, “Virginia becomes Cuba’s largest U.S.-based agricultural exporter,” here.

Know of any other economic development news going on in SWVA? Leave a comment below!

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