Family Provides $5.5M Gift To SU For New Entrepreneurship Center

Family Provides $5.5M Gift To SU For New Entrepreneurship Center
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SALISBURY — Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach has announced a $5.5 million gift from Dave and Patsy Rommel, benefiting SU’s new Center for Entrepreneurship at the Plaza Gallery Building in downtown Salisbury and supporting other future activities of the campus and the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business.

“Anyone who has attended Salisbury University’s business plan competitions in the past 30 years knows our students frequently combine outside-the-box thinking with practicality,” said SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach. “During those three decades, many have built on that winning combination, creating stores, restaurants and service-based businesses that continue to be successful today. The new Center for Entrepreneurship will give our students even more support in making their business dreams a reality while generating new jobs, helping to fuel the economy. We are grateful that Dave and Patsy Rommel share our vision for a strong entrepreneurial community and eniversity.”

The Rommels own Rommel Construction Group and the local Ace Hardware stores and Harley-Davidson dealerships.

The announcement inaugurated the eighth round of SU’s Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery program, which provides $200,000 in annual funding for entrepreneurs throughout the mid-Atlantic with Shark Tank-style competitions. It also served as a prelude to the next day’s SU student Entrepreneurship Competitions, which offers up to $100,000 in cash and prizes annually, culminating with the $20,000 Bernstein Achievement Award for Excellence, founded by area entrepreneur Richard Bernstein in 1986.

“The Bernsteins and the Ratcliffe Foundation helped to start the entrepreneurial programs here at SU in a very big way.  We need to keep that momentum going forward.  We have seen SU assist many current and future business owners through programs such as the Shore Hatchery and Entrepreneurship Competitions,” said Dave Rommel.

“Patsy and I are happy that we can continue that tradition and offer a new resource to help students start the businesses of tomorrow. We also hope they will contribute to the energy that has been bubbling up downtown, and choose to base their businesses on the Lower Eastern Shore. We were both born and raised in Salisbury, and we believe that this will be of great benefit for the future of the entire community.”


Dave Rommel

“This center will serve as a focal point for a collaborative community of scholars, business leaders and the entrepreneurs of the future,” said Dr. Christy Weer, Perdue School dean. “It will allow us to continue fostering independent thinking among students while also giving them a home in Salisbury where they may hone their ideas and benefit from the experience of others.”

Expected to open by 2020, the Center for Entrepreneurship will feature a shared co-working space for SU student entrepreneurs, including six offices and six individual “garages” for winners of the Ratcliffe Shore Hatchery and the student Entrepreneurship Competitions.

Another planned feature is a “makerspace” for robotics, small product assembly and technology-enhanced products with 3-D prototyping, including a textile workshop for fashion and theatre creations. An on-site “spirit store” will sell products developed through the center, as well as SU apparel.

“While students will be the center’s primary users, this new complex will present a number of opportunities for local businesses, as well,” said William Burke, SU executive director for economic development. “Current business owners will have the chance to share their expertise, resources and insights with budding entrepreneurs while reaping the benefits of working with a new generation of business leaders.”

In addition to this announcement, SU also is leading efforts, in connection with the City of Salisbury, to have 30 acres in downtown Salisbury designated as a Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise (RISE) Zone by the Maryland Department of Commerce. SU recently was named a “qualified institution,” which is one of the first steps.

This five-year designation (with an option to renew for another five years) would aim to spur economic development and job creation by allowing commercial and industrial businesses that move into or expand significantly within the zone to benefit from property and income tax credits. Targeted industries include engineering, cybersecurity, additive and aerospace manufacturing, and biotechnology, among others.

SU is the third University System of Maryland institution, along with the University of Maryland, College Park, and Towson University, to qualify for a RISE Zone. The Center for Entrepreneurship will be located within the newly designated area.