US Senator Mark Warner Talks Access to Capital, Opportunity at UVA Darden
By Dave Hendrick
United States Senator Mark Warner visited the University of Virginia Darden School of Business on 14 July to discuss access to capital, the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and ways to ensure continued economic development in the Commonwealth.
Speaking in a Darden classroom to a crowd of local and statewide elected officials, area entrepreneurs and members of the Darden community, Warner further discussed his own entrepreneurial successes and failures and decades-long efforts to grow avenues to entrepreneurship in the state of Virginia.
While highlighting the Charlottesville region as an area that “has probably done better than virtually anywhere else in Virginia” in terms of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, Warner said uneven access to venture creation tools remained an issue throughout the state and country.
“One of the things that has always struck me has been access to capital,” said Warner. “Let me acknowledge on the front-end that if I had not been a white guy with the appropriate education, I wouldn’t have gotten three shots as an entrepreneur. I might not have even gotten the first shot.”
Warner famously saw two ventures fizzle before finding great success in wireless communication technology.
While no elected official can guarantee success for a venture, they can work toward greater access to the tools of venture creation, so that would-be entrepreneurs are not disadvantaged based on race, gender or geography, the senator said.
Warner cited various efforts to level the playing field both locally and globally, from pushing Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) programs in the region to trying to usher through the long-stalled bill to help jumpstart the domestic semiconductor industry. He further suggested that a program akin to CDFI that could put capital directly into the hands of entrepreneurs would have a significant impact on boosting entrepreneurship around the state.
“There are a host of things on the access to capital issue where I hope we will be able to provide more tools, whether you’re an entrepreneur in Charlottesville or Albemarle, or in Southwest or Southside Virginia,” said Warner.
Darden Professor Greg Fairchild, an expert on community development finance who also serves as dean and CEO of UVA|NOVA and academic director of the Batten Institute, said community members should expect to hear more regarding Darden efforts to aid in economic development beyond Grounds.
“We recognize that there has always been a distance between the Darden School and UVA and the larger community, both in Charlottesville and the Commonwealth,” Fairchild said in response to a question from the audience. “We recognize that distance is there and we have been thinking hard about how we can be part of the solution.”
There are likely future avenues of activity relying on a combination of capital flowing through institutions through CDFIs, intellectual capital at the University, and talent and knowledge in communities across the state, Fairchild said, noting that Batten Institute benefactor Frank Batten was a keenly interested in aiding under-resourced communities.
The former governor of Virginia, Warner has a long history with UVA and the Darden School, and was instrumental in helping to launch the Partnership for Leaders in Education, a joint effort from Darden and the UVA School of Education and Human Development that has now served leaders from 150 school districts across 32 states. Since launching in 2004, PLE has become a preeminent leadership development organization in the education space, helping to school systems create conditions to address inequities and achieve lasting student success.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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