Last night I attended the opening of a cool new place in Charleston called DigiSo. The name is short for Digital and Social media and it is an incubator for entrepreneurs in the digital age. The facility has video editing suite, a video studio with a basic lighting package, a sound studio, lecture space and office spaces for developers to rent by the hour, by the half day or longer term.
For a small time developer working on the next big digital business out of his/her home, that is a great resource. You won’t have to buy all of this equipment and don’t have to have client meetings in your living rooms! Better still, DigiSo has organized a group of 13 “anchors” who are digital innovators from the local creative community. The anchors will be there part-time to serve as mentors for people who are starting out or working on new projects. The social aspects of working together and finding inspiration and collaboration are extremely important.
Sixteen years ago, I was working on a gubernatorial campaign for Lyle Sattes. We ran heavily on the idea that West Virginia was an ideal place for people who wanted to work in the digital age, but live in a place where they could enjoy a higher quality of life. He felt they could live in West Virginia and do jobs for companies all over the world. We even published a campaign book and at least half of it was devoted to the concept. I looked around to see if Lyle was at the opening, but he wasn’t there. It appears he was simply ahead of his time. (A bit of irony, I saw the eventual winner of that primary, Charlotte Pritt, at the opening last night. She lost in the general election to Cecil Underwood.)
I am thrilled by the prospects and my hats off to the people at West Virginia State University and the people from the WVSU Economic Development Center for realizing the potential of the “digital economy”. Just yesterday, a company announced they were going to make a $100 million investment in the old South Charleston Stamping Plant and will hire as many as 700 workers. That is fantastic news and will definitely give the local economy a shot in the arm. I see this incubator having just as much of a positive influence on the economy. It won’t happen overnight, of course, economic development and small businesses never do. But it will help to position West Virginia as a place where people can go to enjoy nature, beautiful scenery, less congestion and a greater quality of life, and still be able to compete and contribute to the global digital economy.
If you’re thinking about a creative, digital or web-based business, stop by or check it out online. The people of Charleston should be proud DigiSo is in their own back yard. I predict people will come there from all over the state to take advantage of the resources there. I know I plan to.
And I hope Lyle see this and smiles a bit, knowing he was right…if just a little early..