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Federal funding that helped foster a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem is about to run out.

In 2011, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded the Hampton Roads Partnership half a million dollars. The cost-sharing grant, split into two $250,000 payments over two years, went to Innovate!HamptonRoads, a multi-faceted partnership initiative focused on growing businesses locally.

Innovate!HamptonRoads used the grant money to support five innovation centers, or incubators - the Hampton Technology Incubator, the Franklin Business Incubator, the Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center, the Old Dominion University Business Gateway, and the James City County Business and Technology Incubator, which is supported by the Technology and Business Center at the College of William and Mary.

Each incubator was given $25,000 a year for two years, which each matched by providing services to help startups open locally.

The grant also paid the salary of Rick Lally, executive director of Innovate!HamptonRoads.

Come April, however, Lally said the grant expires, leaving him and the program without funding.

Without money, the future of the incubator network and other programs of Innovate!HamptonRoads are uncertain. Economic gardening is one.

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Published on: December 1, 2012