Revitalizing Rural Communities: Fostering Economic Growth through Entrepreneurial Support

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

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The COVID-19 pandemic has witnessed a remarkable surge in new business formations, with a significant portion of this entrepreneurial activity occurring in rural areas. Minnesota, for instance, experienced a notable 30% increase in unique business formations between 2020 and 2021, primarily in counties outside the Twin Cities metro area. 

Unleashing Entrepreneurial Potential: The Montrose Report 

Rural communities face unique economic challenges, such as job creation and population retention in today's knowledge-driven economy. Organizations like Mid America EDC are actively working to promote and support the growth of rural businesses.

Entrepreneurs in rural areas often need more awareness about the resources available to support them. Increasing the visibility and accessibility of startup support programs is crucial to further stimulate entrepreneurship in the coming years. The Rural Initiatives Programming Analysis and Recommendations, a report conducted by Montrose Group LLC. for Mid America EDC, reinforces this finding, emphasizing the importance of providing funding, networking opportunities, mentoring, and technical assistance to rural businesses.

Support Programs for Rural Entrepreneurs

Several programs have been identified in the Montrose Report as valuable resources for rural entrepreneurs:

Government Support and Funding: The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF) is a crucial source of funding for rural America. With an annual distribution of over $7 billion, the USF primarily addresses telecommunications access in rural areas. Programs within the USF, such as the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, Schools and Libraries (E-rate), and Rural Health Care, aim to bridge the digital divide and enhance connectivity in rural regions. E-rate and Rural Health Care Programs also allocate substantial funds to support education and healthcare in rural communities.

Innovative Approaches: States within the Mid-America EDC region have devised ingenious strategies to bolster rural entrepreneurship. Michigan's Department of Natural Resources, in collaboration with the Pure Michigan® tourism initiative, established the Trail Town Designation Program. Operated by The Progress Fund, this program promotes community and economic development centered around trail tourism and outdoor recreation. It focuses on maximizing regional trail systems' economic potential and fostering growth in rural towns nationwide.

A Strategic Vision: The Mid-America EDC

Through the Montrose Report, the Mid-America EDC envisions a comprehensive approach to rural economic development through its Rural Initiatives. These initiatives encompass six key strategies:

  1. Leveraging industry sector strengths to attract investment and develop the future workforce, including technology and remote talent attraction.
  2. Enhancing connectivity through broadband infrastructure deployment and creating an entrepreneurial-friendly environment.
  3. Adopting Placemaking strategies to leverage local assets, green spaces, and trail systems and promote rural communities as desirable places to live, work, and play.
  4. Exploring creative funding mechanisms to support entrepreneurship, new business ventures, and small business development in rural areas.
  5. Encouraging partnership opportunities to enhance access to quality healthcare and childcare services, thereby fostering a healthy and inclusive workforce.
  6. Incentivizing residential housing development to attract new residents and cater to the evolving needs of existing residents.

Collaboration, Resource-Sharing, and Technical Support for Rural Entrepreneurs

Mid-America EDC showcases the valuable resources and support available to its members through the webinar platform, helping to raise awareness about the programs and services offered by these organizations and fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange among rural entrepreneurs within the Mid-America EDC network. 

Supporting rural entrepreneurs is paramount for fostering economic growth in Mid-America and beyond. As collaboration between rural and urban areas strengthens and technological connectivity expands, the future of rural entrepreneurship appears promising. Investing in these endeavors can build thriving rural economies and create sustainable, vibrant communities. To learn more about the services offered by the Mid-America EDC, click here. 

Category: News