Rocky Mount, N.C.—North Carolina Wesleyan College announced today the formation of the Eastern North Carolina Center for Business & Entrepreneurship to teach students how to launch successful small businesses and to foster entrepreneurial jobs in Eastern North Carolina.
“This new center will educate, motivate and empower the region’s next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Wesleyan President James A. Gray III.
Wesleyan plans to house the center in a classroom building to be constructed on campus next to the Gateway Technology Center at the entrance to the college on Hwy. 301. Construction is slated to begin in 2014. The building, to be named the Stallings Building after trustee and business executive A. Donald Stallings, already has received $2.5 million in commitments from several donors, and fundraising continues, Gray said.
“The college wants to develop the most highly regarded undergraduate program in Eastern North Carolina with an extreme focus on entrepreneurship,” Gray explained. “The center will help the local region create jobs and prosper by helping communities develop new entrepreneurial ventures.”
A community outreach component of the center will focus on regional job creation. Other services to be offered will include mentoring, networking opportunities, research and consulting services, and formation of an advisory committee of entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Wesleyan recently added a concentration in Entrepreneurship to its major in Business Administration and will teach business classes related to entrepreneurship this fall, beginning with a course called Business and Society. Upcoming courses will include Entrepreneurial Finance, Small Business Management, and Small Business Consulting, according to Wesleyan business professor David Walker, who chaired the task force that developed the business plan for the center. “The center is to be run by academics and people with lots of business skills and experience,” Walker said.
“Our mission is to be interdisciplinary. We will aid Wesleyan students from all academic disciplines to learn about the intricacies of starting their own business. In doing so, we will encourage our students to start businesses in Eastern North Carolina and keep them in Eastern North Carolina in order to enhance our local economy.
“You do not have to be a Wesleyan student to utilize our resources,” Walker emphasizes. “We want to be the thought leader for Eastern North Carolina when it comes to entrepreneurship. We want to aid the local economy by welcoming area residents to attend multiple events, seminars and programs that will aid them in launching or enhancing their own entrepreneurial ventures. The bottom line is, we want to create jobs in Eastern North Carolina that will remain in Eastern North Carolina.”
Gray points out that Wesleyan is strategically poised to bring classes focused on job creation to Eastern North Carolina through the college’s adult student program (acronym ASPIRE). The college offers its ASPIRE program, which includes evening and online courses, in Rocky Mount and in Goldsboro, Greenville, Manteo, Raleigh/Durham, Washington, Wilmington and Whiteville,” he said.
To assist Wesleyan with formation and launch of the center, the college has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, a research and consulting organization based at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
“I envision a close collaboration between Wesleyan’s center and several organizations, including SpringBoardNC, a resource hub that fosters and supports entrepreneurship in the I-95/Hwy 64 region,” Gray said.
Phil Dixon, president and CEO of SpringBoardNC said, “In the new economy, entrepreneurs are more important than ever. Many of the next generation or “will be” entrepreneurs are students—of all ages. In a business sense, they are the sales pipeline for revenue growth. For this reason, SpringBoardNC is and will continue to be tightly aligned with Wesleyan and this new center. Our partnership is both strategic and vital with many points of collaboration and complimentary initiatives.”
Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees is enthusiastic about the center’s potential. Trustee Don Stallings said, “I am supporting this center because of what it will do to create a new generation of entrepreneurs and small business owners…and for what it will do to grow needed jobs in Eastern North Carolina.”