Center on Rural Innovation Unveils the Rural Opportunity Map: a Unique, Data-Driven Framework to Foster Economic Success in Small Towns

New Mapping Tool Will Enable Diverse Stakeholders to Gain Insights Easily, Helping Them Take More Impactful Action to Encourage Rural Prosperity

Today, at The Opportunity Project Demo Day and Summit at the U.S. Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland, the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) launched the Rural Opportunity Map, a suite of data visualization and mapping tools to help local leaders, national policymakers, investors, and donors see the potential in rural America. The tool contains hundreds of datasets curated to give insights into tech- and innovation-based economic development strategies and opportunities. 

The customized map highlighted at The Opportunity Project Demo Day, Rural Startup Scout, uses datasets on broadband infrastructure, educational attainment, STEM degrees, patent activity, young companies, and other local assets to highlight Opportunity Zones with emerging tech sectors. The map is designed to help Opportunity Zone investors identify rural areas that are likely to produce promising tech startups.

“Our Rural Opportunity Map puts data and storytelling into the hands of rural changemakers and helps them catalog local assets, look for grants, and find peers and partners,” said Matt Dunne, CORI Founder and Executive Director of Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. “It also provides resources for national policymakers, investors, and philanthropists to enable smart, sustainable 21st century economic development that leverages rural America’s strengths.”

Generous supporters made the Rural Opportunity Map possible: Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Reid Hoffman, Rural LISC, Schmidt Futures, and Walmart, Inc. 

“The Rural Opportunity Map will ensure that data driven insights catalyze inclusive growth and achieve broadly shared prosperity across rural America,” said Shamina Singh, President of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. “By channeling investment towards rural entrepreneurship, the Map is helping to build an engine of economic activity and make the digital economy work for everyone, everywhere.”

“The Rural Opportunity Map has the potential to provide game-changing insights for investors and philanthropists looking to move the needle in rural America,” said Julie Gehrki, Vice President, Philanthropy, Walmart. “We are proud to support this important work.”

The Rural Opportunity Map also includes the Local Leader Action Map, which helps local leaders understand their assets and communicate rural opportunities. For example, by finding communities with similar populations, demographics, and assets, a rural town can discover what types of federal funding peer communities have applied for and received.

“Too many rural Americans are excluded from recent tech-driven economic growth,” said Jordan Blashek, Director and Head of Talent for Schmidt Futures. “The Rural Opportunity Map will be a key tool to surface opportunities and build strong economies in rural communities.”

“Investing resources in rural America diversifies our national economy and increases its resiliency against dips and downturns,” said Julia Malinowski; Senior Program Officer at Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). “This is a critical time for rural communities and change-makers to connect, and the Rural Opportunity Map will help everyone access tools and communicate to build strong communities throughout rural America.”

To create the Rural Opportunity Map, CORI’s team researched, cleaned and uploaded hundreds of rural-specific datasets—from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other government agencies, to local community assets like Opportunity Zones, broadband coverage, universities, hospitals, and breweries. Local leaders and stakeholders from across the country helped guide the development of the map through remote testing sessions and a collaborative design workshop hosted by New America in Washington, D.C. This inclusive process enabled CORI to get valuable feedback, combine data layers into one flexible tool, and bring focus to rural innovation opportunities.

CORI encourages new users to explore the Rural Startup Scout and the Local Leader Action Map.

Contact:  Susan Kaplan, 802-239-1816; susan.kaplan@ruralinnovation.us

CORI & RISI: The Center on Rural Innovation is an action tank and social enterprise committed to supporting resilient economic development in rural America. CORI’s sister organization, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. provides strategic consulting to bring prosperity and investment to rural areas in the digital age. CORI and RISI are headquartered in a gigabit-connected historic general store in the village of Hartland, Vermont. 

December 10, 2019