Communities will receive EDA-funded technical assistance as they build innovation hub strategies and create digital economy jobs

HARTLAND, Vt. — The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) and its sister organization, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), today announced the first cohort of communities selected to participate in the Rural Innovation Initiative, a new program supporting rural communities working to create digital economy jobs with an innovation hub strategy.

The program is made possible via a cooperative agreement between RISI and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Participants in the 2019 Rural Innovation Initiative are:

  • Codefi and the Marquette Tech District Foundation, Cape Girardeau, Missouri
  • Emporia, Kansas
  • Grinnell, Iowa
  • Independence, Oregon
  • Go Forward, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Block22, Pittsburg, Kansas
  • Red Wing Ignite, Red Wing, Minnesota
  • 20Fathoms, Traverse City, Michigan
  • Wilson, North Carolina

“These nine communities represent the best of what rural America has to offer: strong visions for the future, solid infrastructure, excellent quality of life, and the talented workforce needed to engage at a high-level in the digital economy,” said Matt Dunne, CORI Founder and Executive Director of RISI. “We heard from more than 130 rural communities that are interested in pursuing an innovation hub strategy and these nine stood out. We are excited to work with them and know that their energy, local assets, and innovative strategies are sure to deliver results for their communities.”

More than 130 communities from 40 states applied to participate in the program. Participants will receive a range of support, from on-site and video conference time with RISI staff to templates and written resources as they execute an innovation hub strategy: an economic development model that works to educate and train local residents in digital skills, employ them in new economy jobs, and empower them to launch the startups that will drive their digital economy.

Rural Innovation Initiative participants will have access to significant technical assistance to refine their economic development strategy, help them identify partnerships, and leverage existing resources. Communities will secure live-work space for the hub, raise up to $500k in operating funding, and apply for matching funds at the end of Q1 2019.

In addition to the intensive technical assistance provided to the communities selected for this round, rural communities that need more time beyond Q1 2019 will have the opportunity to begin working with RISI’s team of rural economic development experts to build their capacity and prepare for future funding opportunities.

RISI is also creating a virtual network to support capacity building, link innovation hubs, enable communities to make connections to new sources of capital, expand their networks with national technology leaders, and secure digital economy jobs for remote workers in their communities.

Participating communities were selected because they are in designated rural counties according to U.S. Census definitions or consortiums of rural communities in close geographic proximity to one another. Successful communities have a combination of the following attributes:

  • Existing high-speed broadband
  • Available real estate, or significant portions of the community located in New Market Tax Credit census tracts and/or Opportunity Zones
  • Partnership with a selective, four-year endowed residential college or university campus willing to partner
  • A nonprofit organization prepared to lead the initiative

About RISI

RISI works with its sister organization CORI to achieve sustainable economic success in small town America. In September, CORI and its partners launched the Black River Innovation Campus (BRIC), an innovation hub located in Springfield, Vermont. CORI developed and regularly updates the Rural Opportunity Map, which provides a unique tool for identifying areas of opportunity in rural America.


This document was prepared by Rural Innovations Strategies, Inc. using Federal funds under award ED18HDQ3030013 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.