For immediate release
November 9, 2023

HARTLAND, Vt. — The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI), a national nonprofit working to advance economic prosperity in rural America through the creation of inclusive tech economy ecosystems that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation, today announced that three rural communities from its 2023 Rural Innovation Initiative cohort have secured Venture Challenge grants via the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Build to Scale (B2S) program

The successful grant applications came from: Cochise County, Arizona; Northeast Kingdom, Vermont; and Traverse City, Michigan. 

Five communities applied to the Venture Challenge as part of the 2023 Build to Scale cohort of the Rural Innovation Initiative, a technical assistance program launched in 2018 by CORI and its mission-aligned collaborating organization, Rural Innovations Strategies, Inc. (RISI). To date, this program has helped rural organizations secure more than $36 million to develop strategies and build out programs that can accelerate their local tech-based economic development efforts. Since its inception in 2018, nearly 300 communities have applied to participate in the Rural Innovation Initiative program.

“Securing Build to Scale funding is an immense accomplishment — a successful application is the product of significant time, skill, dedication, and belief. That’s what makes it so rewarding to see the communities that take part in the Rural Innovation Initiative achieve this recognition,” said Matt Dunne, founder and executive director of CORI. “We’ve been proud to grow this program over the past five years, and we continue to be inspired by how these rural leaders pursue opportunities like Build to Scale that have the power to transform their local and regional economies. The future is brighter because of their commitment to serve their communities.”

In Cochise County, the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation (AREDF) received an Ignite-level award of nearly $600,000. The funds will support the launch of Cochise Ignite to cultivate a nascent tech economy by building partnerships across industries that can harness the existing innovation potential in the region.

In the Northeast Kingdom, the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) and Do North Coworking were awarded a $1.5 million Build-level grant to fund the InnovateNEK initiative, which is intended to cultivate a community and culture around tech innovation, and increase access to social and financial capital needed to sustain and scale tech startups in the region.

In Traverse City, 20Fathoms will use its $4 million Scale-level award to increase the pipeline of commercializable startup ideas; scale and coordinate technology startup support services; and engage the region’s presently untapped pool of capital and talent.

The 2023 Build to Scale program awarded 60 grants to applicants from 36 states. The grants represent a combined $53 million in federal investment. The Rural Innovation Initiative participants were 10 of just 60 rural applications to receive the award this year. 

These Rural Innovation Initiative participants are also members of CORI’s Rural Innovation Network, a growing collective of 38 rural communities in 25 states across the country that are working to train local residents in tech skills, employ them in high-quality jobs, and empower them to launch the startups that will drive their future economies.

About the Center on Rural Innovation

The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) is a national nonprofit committed to advancing economic prosperity in rural America through the creation of inclusive tech economy ecosystems that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation. Established in 2017, CORI is at the heart of a dynamic social enterprise focused on closing the rural opportunity gap. To maximize all possible resources to address this critical problem, the organization partners with a taxable nonprofit, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), and a seed fund, the CORI Innovation Fund, focused on early-stage technology companies located in rural areas. For more information visit www.ruralinnovation.us.


Media contact:
Emily Wood
Center on Rural Innovation (CORI)