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Oxbow Center officially reopens

Staff report • Nov 15, 2019 at 7:30 PM

ST. PAUL — The University of Virginia’s College at Wise has officially opened the Oxbow Center as a high-tech facility designed to promote economic growth.

The Oxbow Center is the first co-working facility in the seven-county, one-city region of far Southwest Virginia. High-tech startup companies can begin operations at Oxbow as they grow and become successful enough to find a permanent location in the region.

The center will also include the development of the Clinch River Ecological Education Center, slated to open in the spring of 2020.

“We are bringing together technologists, entrepreneurs and environmental education under one roof,” Chancellor Donna P. Henry said at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting. “We are looking forward to the synergies that will result.”

Henry said higher education and economic development go hand in hand with economic development.

“We will always work with our regional and local economic development professionals to assist them in their work to attract new businesses to the region and to support the growth of existing ones,” Henry said. “Our goal is to work with companies who use the Oxbow Center to connect them with existing resources in the region and to work with economic development professionals in the region to find them a place for expansion when they are ready.”

The College, through the Oxbow Center, is partnering with the Center for Innovative Technologies, Atomicorp, Mapcom Systems, the Virginia Tobacco Commission and Clinch River State Park.

Ed Albrigo, president and chief executive officer of CIT, has partnered with the college for about four years. The company invests in startup companies in high-tech fields. The region has an abundance of talent, especially because of the strong education offered at UVa-Wise, he explained.

Scott Shinn, chief technology officer for Atomicorp, praised the partnership with the college. The company develops software that protects businesses that use the cloud for storage. The region’s broadband system and the ability for workers to do tasks remotely are just two reasons it is possible for small businesses to get a start in the area.

“UVa-Wise has been the best I’ve ever seen,” Shinn said. “It’s about talent. Where you live does not dictate that so much. We’re here because of the talent.”

Former Virginia Secretary of Education Don Finley was on hand to tout the Growth4VA campaign, a group of advocates who believe Virginia’s strong higher education system is vital to growth and development across the commonwealth. He said higher education is the biggest economic engine in Virginia, and he urged the crowd to join Growth4VA’s efforts to keep colleges and universities affordable.

The Oxbow Center was gifted to the UVa-Wise Foundation in 2016 by the Oxbow Foundation. The center has completed its first phase of renovations, including the creation of a co-working space, conference room, classroom and private offices.

More information on the center can be found at www.oxbowcenter.com.