Every town has entrepreneurial talent – people who have ideas to make money and provide jobs, or to change the civic and non-profit landscape and improve the lives of their neighbors. Our framework helps local leaders with proven tools and resources, as well as the connections to financing to help local entrepreneurs succeed.
Many small cities have limited staff with limited budgets who are tasked with complex and multifaceted work at a community level. Entrepreneurial ecosystem building, unlike traditional economic development, doesn’t require specialists to bid for big contracts, nor does it require special tax incentives to bring in jobs. The ecosystem is built with committed local residents who are given the knowledge, resources, and voice to build their economy in a way that caters to the unique nature of their place. Rural people know that they must take charge to improve their place and GRO gives them the reins!
Impacts and outcomes from entrepreneur-led development are incremental. Each year entrepreneurial ventures make new investments and hire some employees adding only modest pressure on a rural community’s ability to accommodate growth (e.g., housing, schools, childcare, etc.). As more entrepreneurial ventures grow, others fill voids to build capacity for that growth by expanding housing, childcare and other essentials to support work and population growth. Because entrepreneurial development typically does not require large tax abatements, local tax bases expand with this kind of growth, enabling cities, counties, and school districts to grow and sustainably accommodate economic and population growth!
None of our work is done without the direct involvement and support of local people. Our framework is built on outreach, involvement, voice, and ownership at the local level. We challenge locals to employ an entrepreneurial mindset, to celebrate and share successes, and use our framework to build networks of mentors, leaders, business people, and citizens. Building this ecosystem is a job that is owned and shared by the whole community – successes are celebrated collectively and networks created give support and advice when problems arise.
This model, over seventeen years of use in Kansas, has shown that when rural economic development takes a grassroots approach and focuses on entrepreneurship, it not only has a major impact on newly created, growing, and transitioning small businesses, but creates positive changes that benefit the whole community.
Network Kansas and e2’s system of entrepreneur-led development is the backbone of GRO’s framework. Transforming work in communities like Ord, Nebraska and in Keene, New Hampshire, in Central Appalachia, and in rural Minnesota have helped bring these communities back from economic despair. Please read more about these communities on our resources page.
Over time, as these cities and many others like them have embraced entrepreneurship and seen their economies grow, the benefits have been enjoyed by all residents. Increased tax bases have brought more social services, streetscape improvements, and better schools. Their better diversified and more stable economies are much more adaptive and prepared for change, and the support of local people and local ideas have created unique amenities that have inspired new resident in-migration and more robust investment in their cities.