The institute has worked for the past five years at both the state and regional levels to improve economies in rural communities by creating a systematic approach to encourage business start-ups and expansions. The goals are to:
A system perspective focuses on building a vibrant regional economy, with key roles for community leaders, policy makers, teachers and prominent entrepreneurs, not just for the service providers helping businesses with transactions. It requires collaboration among many individuals and organizations to leverage each other’s expertise.
A fully developed entrepreneurship support will include:
These elements are supported by various state and national studies with entrepreneurs about what they need to thrive. For example, see Understanding the Environment for Entrepreneurship in Rural North Carolina.
Any community can begin to build a supportive culture for entrepreneurship and map out a place-based strategy, but generally it takes a region to offer all six elements of a system.
The Rural Center has undertaken two multiyear projects specifically targeted to creating entrepreneurship support systems.
This work focuses on deepening and sustaining entrepreneurial support in two economically distressed regions of the state.
$600,000 appropriation of the N.C. General Assembly to the Rural Center
What the program entails
Each team receives a $100,000 grant to underwrite the personnel and mileage costs of a regional entrepreneurship coordinator. These coordinators are working with the Rural Center's Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship, other members of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Alliance, and local groups to create a collaborative regional system for entrepreneurship development. Their teams include leadership from local government and grassroots organizations and encourage anyone interested in entrepreneurship development to get involved.
The grants pay a total of half of the cost of the coordinator over three years, starting July 1, 2008. The Rural Center's share of the cost decreases over the three-year period, from 80 percent in the first year to 20 percent in the final year. The grant recipient will pick up the ever-increasing share of the cost and is expected to have a self-sustaining program at the end of the period.
Highlights of accomplishments and directions
Both regions have established regional service provider networks as well as local entrepreneur networks within their counties. Both regions have one or more local school systems offering entrepreneurship camps and enterprise development activities for high school students. Both regions find strong interest among their rural entrepreneurs in certain key economic growth sectors such as local food systems and green business. In 2010 both regions are enlisting leaders who can champion and raise funds for the continuation of these regional networks beyond the life of the grant.
The institute also will support entrepreneurship collaborations in other interested regions.
To participate in your region
This three-year project focused on improving and broadening entrepreneurial support throughout the state's 85 rural counties. Special emphasis was directed to regions with persistently high levels of poverty and to African American, Hispanic and American Indian communities, who often have been underserved by current business development programs.
$2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The project began with a joint proposal involving 21 members of the Business Resource Alliance (now called the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Alliance), led by the Rural Center. Nearly 30 organizations were actively involved in the project:
Rural Center/Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship
Council for Entrepreneurial Development
IDA and Asset-Building Collaborative of North Carolina
Junior Achievement of Eastern North Carolina
N.C. Community Development Initiative Capital
N.C. Indian Economic Development Initiative
N.C. Institute for Minority Economic Development
NC REAL Enterprises
Rural Policy Research Institute/Center for Rural Entrepreneurship
Self-Help Credit Union
Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments
Appalachian State University/Appalachian Rural Development Institute
N.C. Community College System Small Business Center Network
East Carolina University
Western Carolina University
N.C. State University/Industrial Extension Service
N.C. State University/Cooperative Extension Service
Small Business and Technology Development Center
UNC-Chapel Hill/School of Government
N.C. Department of Commerce/Business ServiCenter
N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Marketing Division
N.C. Department of Public Instruction
Practical Lessons Inc.
Paul Combs Enterprises
Developed resource materials to help rural leaders and entrepreneurs.
Initiated the North Carolina Entrepreneurship Summit. This event brings entrepreneurs and service providers together to celebrate and work for North Carolina’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. The Rural Center played the lead role in organizing the first two summits, in 2007 and 2008, and continues as a cosponsor. Learn more about the summits.
Established six regional networks. Each network had its own individual leaders and partners, but all shared a mission: to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get what they need to succeed.
Promoted entrepreneurship among minority communities.
Trained local leaders in entrepreneurship development.
Nationwide EDS initiative
The Entrepreneurship Development System for Rural North Carolina was one of six projects funded nationally by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation under the Entrepreneurship Development Systems for Rural America project. Each project received $2 million over three years. Other projects were based in Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota and West Virginia. The Aspen Institute report Revitalizing Rural Economies through Entrepreneurship Development Systems summarizes the nationwide initiative.