Port of Benton awards Seed Fund Support Grant to Fuse SPC

News Release:

Port of Benton Awards Economic Development Administration (EDA) Seed Fund Support grant to Fuse SPC for the creation of Tri-Cities Seed Fund for small businesses.

The Port of Benton commission took action today to award a three-year contract to Fuse SPC in the amount of $254, 113 to support the development and creation of a Tri-Cities Seed Fund to assist new startups. Fuse SPC—founded in 2014—will also provide entrepreneur education under its Launch University program, in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL). Their efforts supports growth and promotes innovation in our Tri-Cities community.

The Port of Benton administers the Tri-Cities Research District (TCRD), a State of Washington Innovation Partnership Zone that focuses on creating an environment to support the commercialization of new technologies. The TRCD Board includes PNNL, Washington State University Tri-Cities (WSU-TC), Columbia Basin College (CBC), Fuse SPC, Worksource Development, TRIDEC, Department of Energy (DOE/PNSO), and the cities of Richland and Pasco. The TCRD has a long history of support in the entrepreneurial space, which has included sponsoring the Tri-Cities Start-Up Weekend in 2013—now known as Launch University Weekend.

“Fuse really stepped up in a big way with programming and cost-share to our request for proposals; it makes sense for us to support a successful model and their efforts,” said Diahann Howard, Director of Economic Development for the Port of Benton and TCRD Executive Director.

Fuse projects the impacts of its educational programs and funds will support investment to over 25 small businesses and the creation of over 100 jobs during the initial three-year period. To date, Fuse has helped create more than 80 new companies and 430 jobs in just four years.

“This is very exciting for the Port of Benton. Helping small business is a core value to our organization and mission as a port district. Entrepreneurship, recruitment, and retention—that’s just pure economic development!” stated Scott D. Keller, PPM® Executive Director for the Port of Benton.

The Port of Benton was selected as one of 15 recipients from a pool of more than 217 applicants received by the EDA to receive the Regional Innovation Strategies Seed Fund Support grant. “It was truly a community effort to get this grant, and many thanks to all our community and regional partners for their letters of support. It truly made a difference,” continued Howard. “It is great that we are getting these dollars to work in the Tri-Cities and support local start-ups,” she said.

“We’d like to thank the Port and TCRD for their foresight and support of such a critical need in the community. Together, we’re building the Tri-Cities entrepreneurial ecosystem as we grow beyond Hanford dollars,” said Brett Spooner, President of Fuse and executive board member for State of Motion.

To learn more about the Regional Innovation Strategies program and the awardee projects, visit eda.gov and the FAQs. To learn more about the Port of Benton, visit portofbenton.com, and for more information about the TCRD, visit tricitiesresearchdistrict.org. Information about Fuse SPC is available at https://fusespc.com/.

Background on EDA RIS SFS

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), leads the Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. The program is authorized through the America COMPETES reauthorization Act of 2010, and has received dedicated appropriations since FY2014.

In 2018, 42 organizations—including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations from 28 states—received over $17 million to create and expand regional proof-of-concept and commercialization programs and early-stage seed capital funds through RIS. The Port of Benton is one of 15 awardees of Seed Fund Support (SFS) meant to promote vibrant regional entrepreneurial economies.

Background on Port of Benton

The Port of Benton’s mission is to promote economic development within the Port of Benton, Benton County, Richland, Prosser, Benton City, and this region. The Port aspires to be one of the premier inland port districts in the northwest, strives to form partnerships with other entities to complete projects that will bring business and development to this region. and hopes to be recognized as an aggressive and progressive port district that other economic development entities strive to emulate.

Background on Fuse SPC

Founded in 2014, Fuse SPC is the Tri-Cities’ first Social Purpose Corporation. It is the cumulative passion of over thirty contributors in the Tri-Cities, including lawyers, accountants, designers, developers, entrepreneurs, telecommuters, freelancers, and dreamers. Together, these founders created a place—Fuse Coworking and Accelerator—which brings together ideas, abilities, and resources in a coworking community to support growth and champion enthusiasm.

Fuse is comprised of three components: coworking, business education and accelerator (Launch University), and community. In 2018, Fuse Community and Business Accelerator has rebranded and expanded, relocating to 723 The Parkway. The addition of a sister non-profit, State of Motion, expands their educational outreach within the Tri-Cities to provide ongoing entrepreneur and investor education. Fuse and State of Motion continue to grow their education offerings with an eight-week startup school, twelve-week accelerator, pitch nights, investor dinners, and other event to provide and promote entrepreneur education within the Tri-Cities ecosystem.

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