Rural Entrepreneurship: Growing a Comprehensive Entrepreneurship Center in a Small Town
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
By Cristobal Valdez
Provost, Detroit Lakes Campus
Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Detroit Lakes, MN
“Building through Collaboration” is the third article in a series of four chronicling the development of the M State, Business and Entrepreneurial Services (BES) in the rural community of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This article will discuss actual examples of leveraging scarce resources through granting, partnerships, and outreach efforts.
Startup: Capitalization and Design
The vision of the BES, “to educate and empower entrepreneurs throughout Minnesota” in many dimensions, is fairly simple. The members of the Core Group exuberantly and deliberately developed a foundational vision and path for this venture. We found the complications to accomplish this vision can be enormous. Our first order of business was to aggressively seek funding.
We have successfully written grants from a statewide community foundation, a state employment and economic development agency, a federal granting institution, a regional economic development initiative, and local community foundations. We started small; our first grant award was $2,500. From there, we strategically used in-kind contributions and college general fund hard cash to leverage nearly $275,000 in funding in less than two years. Additionally, we have partnered with others to plan a holistic community economic development strategy via entrepreneurship that we believe can leverage additional implementation funds.
Implementation: Finding Partners
We cannot overstate the importance of engaging in partnerships and strengthening relationships with local and regional stakeholders. At the 6th annual NACCE conference in Anaheim, I had a good conversation with another attendee. We discussed incubators, rural incubator viability, and strategies for successful incubation ventures. He related the importance of partnerships and establishing a regional reach.
To this end, the BES has been deliberate in developing relationships with economic developers in the region. We have found that these folks tend to “get” the concepts and constructs of entrepreneurship. Additionally, they are likely to be the most connected individuals in the rural areas. We are in nearly constant contact with the economic development officer in six communities. These relationships have allowed us to offer the Planning the Entrepreneurial Venture, graciously provided by the Kauffman Foundation, in four rural communities this upcoming year in addition to the two offerings available in our Detroit Lakes community. We are convinced that the rural communities would not have the resources to develop such an opportunity without the BES’s regional focus.
Outreach: Planned growth and innovation
These efforts have led us to partnering with City of Detroit Lakes (pop. 7,900), the City of Frazee (pop. 2,000), and the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce in planning a Community Based Entrepreneurship (CBE) initiative for our region. The objectives of this process are:
- Develop a framework for understanding entrepreneurs for the general public.
- Develop an understanding of entrepreneurship as a core economic development strategy.
- Identify assets in the community to create an entrepreneurial environment.
We anticipate this process will establish the BES and M State as a major contributor/service/resource for entrepreneurial activities throughout the region. Already, we have assembled an influential group of financial institutions, economic developers, K-12 representatives, elected officials and community constituents, to whom we can tell our story, promote entrepreneurship, and publicize the value of entrepreneurship education and development.
Committed to Entrepreneurs
Through these and other activities, we have come to appreciate the real value of interacting, conducting business and recognizing local and regional entrepreneurs. Our actions have strengthened our communities and our resolve to promote entrepreneur education. We understand that not all the above activities will develop with the same success in your rural community, but they give us direction and experience.
For more information about Business & Entrepreneurial Services of M State, contact Cristobal “Cris” Valdez at (218) 846-3778 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.