Tomblin said with changes in banking regulations nationwide, many entrepreneurs or small businesses have not had access to the money they needed to grow an idea or small business.
"It's a way of having a whole new ray of possibilities for people who want to start their own business in West Virginia," Tomblin said. "It goes back again to West Virginians helping West Virginians, and that is what this program is all about."
The ARC recently launched a regional angel gund, Appalachia Funders Network, which helps fund projects in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina, creating a network of public and private investors throughout Appalachia. The Appalachia Funders Network is a group of private and public agencies focused on providing Central Appalachia with economic opportunities while sustaining the environmental and cultural assets in the region, according to its website.
In September, West Virginia was one of five organizations awarded $30,000 each by the ARC to launch its own fund.
West Virginia will be the first state to create a statewide, stand-alone angel fund. The West Virginia Angel Network will serve as administrative support to the West Virginia Growth Fund that will deal directly with investment opportunities.
"I hope all West Virginians can take pride in the fact that we are first," Heywood said. "To be first says a lot about the passion mountaineers have about the mountain state and the sense of opportunity."
Heywood said the Growth Fund has roughly $3 million in total funds. He expects investments to continue.
The West Virginia Growth Fund will operate as a private sector business, but Heywood said it is possible for the Growth Fund and the public West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust to invest in the same projects.
Investing in a fund opposed to individually, "gives you the ability to take advantage of everyone else's connections and opportunities," Heywood said.
The fund will not seek tax exemptions, Heywood said.
"This is toward the riskier, earlier stages of investment," he said. "This is kind of to get the small entrepreneurs up and running."
He sees the Angel Network as another tool in the state's tool belt. In addition to supplying money to startups, the network will look to connect resources, business coaches and opportunities throughout the region.
"As we get good ideas, as people in Ohio or Tennessee might get good ideas, we can link those resources right here in Appalachia to really take advantage of the opportunities here before us," he said.
Reach Caitlin Cook at
West Virginia Growth Fund