Digital Economic Development

Creating inclusive digital economies

We are capacity builders, advocates, connectors, and champions. We empower rural community leaders working to create thriving digital economies that support tech-based entrepreneurship and job creation in the places they call home. Through a comprehensive approach to digital economic development, we help these leaders prove what’s possible in rural America:

A street-level view of main street businesses in downtown Cape Girardeau with the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge in the background.
Digital economy assessments

Helping communities identify local assets, opportunities, gaps, and challenges that factor into building inclusive digital economy ecosystems.

Digital economy strategies

Delivering cohort based technical assistance to rural communities as they develop digital economy strategies.

Ongoing support and partnerships

Providing access to a growing national network of committed rural leaders working to advance the economic future of small-town America.

Mapping tools and economic data

Preparing local economic data and mapping tools to ground the work of our partners, supporters, and Network members.

Investment in rural entrepreneurs

Making direct investments in early-stage technology startups located in rural Opportunity Zones.

Necessary infrastructure for digital economies

Creating actionable plans to implement broadband networks that ensure rural communities can participate in and benefit from digital economies.

Community stories

Our Rural Innovation Network is a nationwide community of committed change agents working to advance the economic future of small-town America. Here are some of their stories:

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Portsmouth, Ohio

Portraits of a community: Portsmouth — A former steel town forges its path into the digital economy.

Waterville, Maine

The Rural Edge: Waterville — A New England mill town that's finding a new way forward.

Ada, Oklahoma

Portraits of a community: Ada — A small Oklahoma town that contains multitudes.

By the numbers

$17M +

Through the Rural Innovation Initiative, we’ve helped our communities raise more than $17 million in federal funding and matching dollars through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s highly competitive Build to Scale Venture Challenge Grant program.


While 15% of America’s workforce lives in rural America, only 5% of tech jobs are in rural areas. By 2030, we want rural America to have 15% of the nation’s digital economy jobs, distributed to match the gender and race demographics of each region.

Dia Gosh headshot in front of a blue background
Network testimonials

Developing vibrant digital economies in rural areas is more important now than ever, and rural communities can only be truly successful by working in collaboration with each other. The Rural Innovation Network is a great asset as we continue to learn from other communities around the nation.

Dia Ghosh, Ada Jobs Foundation
Ada, Oklahoma
Mildred Franco headshot in front of a dark background
Network testimonials

Being able to use my experience to design and launch an innovation hub— a learning and support center for entrepreneurs and digital skills, has been challenging and exhausting, but absolutely fulfilling! It’s exciting to be a member of the team working to implement the plan to revitalize Pine Bluff.

Mildred Franco, The Generator
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Steve Elias headshot in front of a dark background.
Network testimonials

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural community. This is why we are so happy to be partnering with the Rural Innovation Network on our entrepreneurship and small business development activities throughout Durango and our region.

Steve Elias, Fort Lewis College
Durango, Colorado

Join our movement of rural advocates and change agents

You can help us empower the local change agents and entrepreneurs driving innovation in the small towns and communities they call home. Support the Network. Become a partner.

Get in touch

Get resources from our experts

From readiness assessments and community toolkits to interactive maps, data visualization tools, reports, and dashboards, we develop resources that help rural change agents advance their economic development efforts. We support policymakers, investors, nonprofits, academics, and journalists looking to better understand and share what’s happening in small towns and communities across the country.

Read the latest highlights