Prince William County recently accepted a $50,000 grant from the Small Business Administration for the Prince William Science Accelerator. The accelerator bested more than 830 applications nationwide to win the grant. The money will go toward dividing the last available lab at the accelerator, which is home to six life-science companies that fill the other eight labs. Dividing the ninth lab will make room for more life science companies that are interested in moving to the Science Accelerator.
"This grant will allow us to parcel out the last available lab we have here into four or five mini-labs that could be used to accommodate these companies that want to come in," said Jeffrey Kaczmarek, the director of the Prince William County Department of Economic Development.
The aim of the science accelerator is to bring in start-up companies and give them a leg-up in hopes that they'll expand and relocate in the county. "The idea was to capture early-stage life-sciences companies here in Prince William County and to help them at the early stages of growth. The idea is to start developing a churn of companies through here because, ultimately, we want to grow this entire life sciences ecosystem in Prince William County," said Kaczmarek.
Since the 9,126-square-foot accelerator opened in 2014, the companies there have invested more than $1.1 million in equipment costs and created 20 high-paying jobs, according to the county's Department of Economic Development. The work the scientists do at the accelerator involves creating diagnostics tools to fight Lyme Disease, cancer, AIDS and the Zika virus, along with other biomedical research and development.
During the check presentation ceremony, Carl Knoblock, the district director for the Small Business Administration (SBA) in Virginia, said the accelerator won the grant because of the public-private partnership involved in creating a space where life sciences businesses can get a start. Prince William County, with an initial $1.33-million initial investment, worked alongside George Mason University and Rinker Design Associates to build the accelerator at Innovation Park. "We have that public-private partnership where different entities are involved in it. Another huge plus is that you have a major university, that's part of the community, that can also bring the talent pool and … provide the research opportunities. This region will start being known as a life science region and an IT region, and that's a huge thing to be able to … brand across the state."
"It's this partnership between the government, the academic community and, of course, the private sector that is ultimately leading to the … technical jobs," said Chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Corey Stewart. "We know that. We're committed to it. We're going to continue to build, not just wet lab space, but also the road infrastructure and the other infrastructure … necessary to keep it growing in the innovation sector."
Prince William Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson said that the recognition of the SBA for the work that is happening at the Science Accelerator will help bring in additional jobs to the community. "The $50,000 grant is going to create more jobs, and that's what we are really all about. We want to bring more of those high paying jobs to Prince William County."
Prince William County Executive Christopher Martino echoed Stewart and Lawson's comments. "The Science Accelerator is a great example of how a successful public-private partnership can work and succeed; and now, today, we bring to the table our newest partner, the Small Business Administration. One of our core economic strategies here in the county is to accelerate commercialization and job creation in the life sciences. This will help go a long way toward accomplishing that goal."
For more information about the Science Accelerator, visit the Department of Economic Development's website at www.pwcecondev.org.