The Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub at UNC Pembroke (formerly Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship) hopes to bring 30 new jobs to the region over three years thanks to a substantial gift from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.
The Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub has been awarded $198,000 to hire a sustainability coordinator who will team with the Entrepreneurship Incubator staff to launch small businesses and create stronger ties between economic development and health improvement efforts. The Entrepreneurship Incubator – located inside the Hub – supports business growth across a 10-county region.
The grant funds will be spread over three years.
“We’re grateful to receive this grant and believe it will dramatically improve the support we give to leading edge health care startups and technologies and how fast we can get them contributing to the community,” said Thomas Hall, executive director of the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub.
The sustainability coordinator will be responsible for finding and evaluating high potential technologies, develop and present proposals, and build and manage strategic relationships globally.
The goal is to attract jobs in the home health care and agribusiness sectors, specifically in the areas of aging in place and nutrition. Addressing poverty as an underlying driver of poor health is also a key aim of this project.
“Economic opportunity, health and education are intertwined issues that our founder, Kate B. Reynolds, focused on during her lifetime. We work to interpret her vision today, and we know there are a lack of economic opportunities for many Robeson County residents,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.
“Community members identified job creation as the greatest barrier to health improvement in Robeson County in a recent community health needs assessment,” Gerald said.
“We are excited to partner with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to spur economic growth in the community and across Southeastern North Carolina.”
“As a Robeson County native, I am fully aware of both the strengths and the unique challenges faced by its rural communities,” she said.
“UNCP has long been an engine of change in the areas of economic development and health care, and the Trust is pleased to support their work to help improve health outcomes in Robeson County.”
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings said UNC Pembroke is grateful for the investment by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust under the leadership of Dr. Gerald, who he has known and respected for many years.
“Dr. Gerald appreciates the needs of our region, and as a physician and former State Health Director like myself, she understands the clear linkages between economic conditions and health outcomes.”
Hall said there is a significant upside in job creation, economic mobility and health by finding and commercializing technologies at the intersection of agriculture, nutrition and health.
“While the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub and others have made strides supporting and nurturing small businesses and startups, we feel the situation will be significantly improved with a focused effort to bring in technologies that will drive faster and larger job growth, leading to improved economic mobility, health and wellness,” Hall continued.
Since opening its doors in downtown Pembroke in January 2016, the Hub has been helping residents start businesses. It also links with larger health improvement efforts in the county to connect these initiatives to economic development.
The Hub has nine private Incubator offices, 12 accelerator ‘jumpstart’ spaces, a maker’s space and an ideation lab. The center has worked with 65 companies in the area and created 94 jobs since 2016.
The Hub is helping to rejuvenate downtown Pembroke while providing opportunities for UNCP students to get hands-on learning experiences.
Lumberton businessman David Edge, who serves on the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub advisory board, was thrilled to learn of the generous gift.
“Any time you can get grants that are going to be able to bring in jobs, stimulate the economy and improve the sustainability in our area, I think that is wonderful.”
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947. Today, it is one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina. Its mission is to improve the health and quality of life of financially-disadvantaged residents in North Carolina. The trust was established by the late Kate B. Reynolds, who was married to the late William Neal Reynolds, chairman of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.