Auburn University, New Venture Accelerator awarded grant to accelerate high-quality job growth, create economic opportunity in Auburn-Opelika area

Article body

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo recently announced that 50 organizations—including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, state government agencies and other entrepreneurship-focused organizations—from 26 states will receive grants to support programs that will fuel innovation and economic development.

Auburn’s grant, awarded as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build to Scale Program and Venture Challenge, is for a combined $657,622 federal share and a $657,622 local match. Auburn Research and Technology Foundation Senior Director Cary Chandler and New Venture Accelerator Director Lou Bifano serve as co-principal investigators on the grant.

The Venture Challenge awards grants to intermediary organizations like accelerators, universities, community colleges and nonprofits to support new business ventures that are scalable by nature, challenge the status quo of markets, commercialize technologies and further job creation.

“Auburn is one of America’s best places to live and to start a business,” Chandler said. “Through its proven entrepreneurial and innovation educational programing and one-on-one business counseling, the New Venture Accelerator and its predecessors have successfully launched over 50 businesses from Auburn University’s student and faculty entrepreneurs. These businesses have received over $32.5 million of venture investment and have created over 370 jobs.

“This expertise and track record of success has us well-positioned to foster robust economic growth in the Auburn-Opelika area by utilizing the EDA grant to offer unique tools and programming to the greater community.”

The grant is part of the EDA Build to Scale Program, which aims to accelerate entrepreneurship by increasing inclusive access to business support and startup capital.

“Working together, the Harbert College of Business, the New Venture Accelerator, the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, the City of Auburn and others have created a vibrant, supportive entrepreneurial environment that is committed to advancing new and growing businesses,” Bifano said. “Fully funded by the Harbert College of Business, the New Venture Accelerator has a unique combination of resources to offer the local business community including education, skills development, mentoring, collaborative workspace, networking opportunities and consulting expertise.”

The current entrepreneurship ecosystem at Auburn University has allowed students and employees to engage in entrepreneurship education and programming through the New Venture Accelerator. This EDA grant provides opportunity to expand education and programming to include members of the local community.

Bifano said Auburn University and the City of Auburn encourage entrepreneurs to visit the Start in Auburn website.

Anyone interested in starting a new business in the Auburn-Opelika area or who may need help growing their business is encouraged to reach out to Bifano at, Chandler at or Caitlin Myers at to learn more about the full range of programs and business counseling services that are offered by the Harbert College of Business, the New Venture Accelerator, the Auburn Research Technology Foundation and the City of Auburn.

Related Media

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.