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DSU gets big grant to launch small business e-commerce initiative

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DOVER – Delaware State University has received a $300,000 CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to enable its University Center for Economic Development and International Trade (USEDIT) and its Center for IT Services to create “an Amazon of sorts for Main Street Delaware.”

“COVID-19 has shown us that small businesses need to have e-commerce functionality and this initiative will enable us to provide small businesses with that through a website we will develop called shopmainstreetde.com with a back slash in the URL that identifies individual towns,” said Dr. Michael Casson, dean of the DSU College of Business.

An example would be shopmainstreetde.com/Middletown for businesses in that area.

“Our objective is to leverage the resources of the university and the College of Business for economic development locally, nationally, and internationally,” Casson said. “First, we’re asking ourselves how to best organize those assets and then how do we best deploy them. The talent is here and ready to go.”

Casson said he expects the university will receive the grant money this fall and will launch the website around this time next year, offering about 35 small businesses across the state to leverage the e-commerce functionality.

DSU’s Delaware Center for Enterprise Development (DCED) and its College of Agriculture and Related Sciences’ Cooperative Extension unveiled in 2012 what Casson described as a pilot for the new initiative. The Mobile Entrepreneurial Training (MET) program was designed to take business and agriculture-related education to underserved rural areas of Lower Delaware.

The grant for the program is coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

DSU is one of more than 850 colleges and universities across the country that are part of the EDA’s University Centers, which are designed to marshal their resources to support regional economic development strategies in regions of chronic and acute economic distress. The University Centers are required to devote the majority of their funding to respond to technical assistance requests originating from organizations located in the economically distressed portions of their service regions.

EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance is being administered under the authority of the bureau’s flexible Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) (PDF) program. It provides a wide range of financial assistance to eligible communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) leads the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

By Peter Osborne

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