Round Up: How to Grow a Vibrant Community of Entrepreneurs in Rural America

How to Grow a Vibrant Community of Entrepreneurs in Rural America

Building vibrant ecosystems is no easy feat, regardless of where in America you happen to hang your shingle. The challenges facing economic developers doing rural entrepreneurship-led economic development are often even more difficult. The Kauffman Foundation recently addressed the changing “new map” of entrepreneurship in their annual 2017 State of Entrepreneurship Address:

“Entrepreneurship is an increasingly urban phenomenon, and it is taking place in mid-sized metros and outside traditional hubs like Boston and Silicon Valley. People have migrated to cities, contributing to a decline in rural entrepreneurship. As a percentage, startup activity in rural areas now is even lower than the percent of the country’s rural population.”

The question then becomes, what is being done to help rural economies leverage entrepreneurship as an economic development and community growth strategy?

One of our affiliate partners, IASourceLink collaborated with the Iowa Rural Development Council to host the first Iowa Rural Development Summit in November 2016. The event brought together 75 rural Iowa communities under 20,000 in population for a day-long strategic planning session as the first step in building a holistic vision for growth and prosperity. The keynote and session facilitator was Don Macke, co-founder and director of entrepreneurial communities at the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, Nebraska (one of SourceLink’s strategic partners).

At the Iowa Rural Development Summit everything was discussed from keeping young generations interested in staying in the community to exploring ways to close major gaps in housing and engagement. While you can’t fix all of a community’s issues in a day, economic developers, city leaders and influencers left with a clearer vision for how they might start to strategically tackle some of these pressing challenges.

IASourceLink collaborated to host the Iowa Rural Development Summit


Has your rural community had some of these tough conversations? What are you doing to help rural entrepreneurs? Drop me a note and check out this roundup of articles on growing rural eship- curated just for you:

The Challenges and Opportunities of Running a Small Business in Rural America, John Lettieri, 4/2017, Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee

Check out the testimony from John Lettieri, co-founder and senior director for policy and strategy from the Economic Innovation Group. “The relationship between geography and opportunity appears more profound than ever. . . . [Our] goal should be to ensure the broader economy remains as flexible, dynamic, and adaptable as possible.”

How to Scale Up Regional Economies (like Akron, Ohio), Daniel Isenberg, 04/2017, LinkedIn
Dan Isenberg discusses his theories on how to activate an entrepreneurial ecosystem and keep it accelerating and self-sustaining efficiently and effectively. We all know this is no simple task. 

3 Serious Myths about Rural Entrepreneurship, Maria Meyers, 6/29/2017
Rural entrepreneurs profoundly enrich the communities in which they live and launch their ideas because of their direct connection to the needs of their communities, their knowledge of regional talent and, especially, their commitment to their neighbors.

Why Rural Towns Get Left Behind, and What We Can (Should) Do About It, Amy Pearl, 04/2017, LinkedIn
How do you empower rural entrepreneurs? Amy Pearl suggests a system where entrepreneurs are able to access multiple resources in one spot. Sound familiar? It should. She’s practically describing The Resource Navigator® interactive database. Read her take on how to support rural business leaders.

Rethinking the Entrepreneur, Brandy Willett, 04/2017, The Wichita Eagle
Brandy Willett touches on the fact that so many entrepreneurs don’t actually consider themselves entrepreneurs and, because of this, don’t take advantage of the resources entrepreneur service organizations provide to advance their enterprises, a problem of which many economic developers are all too aware.

The Secret Keeping Some Rural Businesses Alive, Chris Farrell, 05/2017, Forbes
One way rural entrepreneurship stays strong is through succession. With a shout out to our friends at The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Chris Farrell briefly discusses the transition of business succession and the benefits of younger generations taking over rural businesses. It’s a quick and insightful read.

How Do You Attract Entrepreneurs to a Small Town?, Erik Pedersen, 4/19/2017
Erik is convinced that a “grow your own” mindset is the most viable framework for rural communities to use in order to thrive, and in many cases, survive. After reading this article from him, I think you’ll understand why.


Director of SourceLink Rob Williams 

Rob Williams
is the director of SourceLink where he puts the “serve” in customer service, always available as support to SourceLink clients who are often unsung entrepreneurial champions in their communities.