Many rural places already have key assets in place that can be used to build tech economies, including gigabit-speed broadband, available space, low cost of living, attractive downtowns, outdoor amenities, colleges and universities, and strong community connections. Rural communities can use these to build inclusive tech economies.

We’ve identified the foundational elements, necessary infrastructure and direct drivers communities need to build thriving tech economy ecosystems.

Foundational elements

These are the key elements within a community, such as housing or an attractive “live-work” downtown, that enable a tech economy ecosystem to thrive. Every community will have a different configuration of these elements, and while not all of them will be robust, large gaps will prevent progress.

Necessary tech economy infrastructure

We’ve identified the necessary infrastructure communities need to participate in the tech economy. These are imperative for communities if they want to drive outcomes on their own. Without them, communities will struggle to achieve local wealth creation and quality tech employment.

  • Broadband infrastructure
  • Coworking and entrepreneurship spaces
  • Local leadership capacity

Direct drivers

Direct drivers enable communities to successfully compete in the tech economy. These focus on building local capacity and providing access to tech jobs, capital, and workforce development and support. We focus on developing these through the Rural Innovation Initiative:

Our work is primarily focused on the development of these five direct drivers. While we recognize the importance of establishing these include foundational elements and the necessary infrastructure, our core focus is on the direct drivers needed to create economic transformation in a rural community.

Outcomes of a thriving tech economy ecosystem

  • Tech employment: Workers are successfully matched with quality tech jobs that can be done from small towns, either through remote work or homegrown tech roles.
  • Wealth creation: Local entrepreneurs build tech-enabled businesses that bring wealth back to the community, support other local businesses, and stabilize the community’s tax base, and grow the local economy.


Our work in action

To see what tech economic development can look like in rural America, explore our programs and learn about the rural communities that are charting their own courses towards economic prosperity.

Rural Innovation Initiative

Through our Rural Innovation Initiative, our team of in-house community managers and data experts works with cohorts of rural communities to create place-based tech economic strategies. This intensive technical assistance program has helped our communities raise more than $29.9 million in federal funding and matching dollars. Many of these communities go on to join our Rural Innovation Network after completing the Initiative. Read more.

Rural Innovation Network

Our Rural Innovation Network is a growing community of small-town economic development leaders from across the country who are committed to building thriving tech economies in their hometowns. We connect our members with other rural leaders and advocates working on similar development initiatives, while partnering closely with them to develop strategies, assess opportunities, and execute on new ideas. Read more.