WCU establishing limited liability company to spur WNC development

The Western Carolina University College of Business is establishing a new, for-profit limited liability company designed to provide entrepreneurial business, scientific and technical services to help spur economic development activity in Western North Carolina.

Formation of the new entity, authorized earlier this year by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, was announced Wednesday, April 22, as part of WCU’s inaugural LEAD:Innovation summit. More than 100 entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners and others interested in regional economic development gathered on campus for a conference focused on topics related to entrepreneurship and small businesses.

The new for-profit LLC will replace WCU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which was created in 2007 within the College of Business to serve as a catalyst for the creation of successful entrepreneurial ventures in WNC while providing hands-on learning experiences for WCU students.

The new entity will be wholly owned by the Western Carolina University Research and Development Corporation, which was formed in 2001 for the purpose of aiding and promoting the educational and charitable purposes of WCU.

The for-profit company will enable faculty and students to be more nimble and responsive when dealing with requests for services from local entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses, and will allow WCU to engage in commercial activities and enterprises with greater flexibility, said Darrell Parker, dean of the College of Business.

Shifting from being a unit of the college to a for-profit associated entity also will increase the potential to generate revenue from professional and consultative services provided by faculty and staff; provide broader access to financing necessary for product development, business expansion and technology transfer; and enhance the potential to generate revenue for internships and other forms of student financial aid, Parker said.

“Small businesses and entrepreneurs represent an increasingly important segment of the economy in Western North Carolina,” he said. “By transferring the activities of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to this new venture, we will be able to better leverage the resources of our faculty, staff and student expertise to create a nourishing environment that will foster the creation of new businesses and new jobs in our region.”

Once the for-profit entity is fully established, university officials will identify a manager to run its day-to-day operations. Ed Wright, director of the CEI, will be entity’s faculty contact.

For more information, contact Wright at ewwright@wcu.edu or 828-227-3603.