NCC grant backs COVID business support website
DOVER — Amid the struggles in 2020, Dr. Michael Casson sees a window of opportunity to leverage Delaware State University’s resources to help businesses forge on in a changing landscape.
DSU’s College of Business was recently awarded a $500,000 from New Castle County’s Innovation Grant program, and with it, the historically Black university will develop an online COVID Recovery Lab portal to provide businesses with real-time data and training courses. The initiative is called “Bounce Forward,” a reference to getting businesses resilient and moving onward.
“We have a long history of supporting small businesses and enterprises, and throughout all that work, we’ve developed a robust network of consultants to support it,” said Casson, dean of DSU’s College of Business. “Our faculty and staff have been really engaged with the community’s needs, especially since the pandemic started, and this would be an exciting way to deploy resources deeply needed in the business community.”
DSU will use the funding to design a web-based platform — ideally to go live in January — to serve as a springboard for businesses to get back up and running. Among services the portal will provide is a data repository that would provide industry-specific data in real time, as well as best practices; virtual business training courses; and applied research and consulting.
Much of the foundation for these three programs has already been built through the university, such as consulting through its Center for Financial Services Innovation and Technology and compiled data through research at the Center for Economic Development and International Trade.
“It’s all about putting together a DSU vehicle for a more efficient exchange of information and tailoring it to New Castle County businesses,” Casson told the Delaware Business Times. “How the current environment is now, our goal is to make this a living, breathing website, much like businesses today, and answer their needs in a dynamic way.”
The hope is to expand the COVID Recovery Lab throughout the state, including DSU’s main base in Kent County, but the funding was granted through a program specific to New Castle County. Earlier this year, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer allocated $5 million of the county’s federal CARES Act stimulus money to fund innovative ways to support businesses. It backed the Delaware Data Innovation Lab, founded by Wilmington data analytics firm CompassRed, with $2 million from the same fund.
“This is going to be a one-stop shop for any business in New Castle County, but we’re also proud to be a state school,” Casson said. “We’re going to leverage all our resources for the state’s improvement and recovery from this, but first let’s get this up, running and sustainable before we talk about expansion.”
By Katie Tabeling