Federal grants and matching dollars represent a combined total of almost $4.2 million in new investment in rural innovation hubs

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

Five communities participated in the 2021 Build to Scale cohort of the Rural Innovation Initiative, a technical assistance program empowering rural communities as they execute on innovation hub strategies. The Initiative was launched in 2018 by CORI’s sister organization, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc (RISI) through a cooperative agreement between RISI and the EDA. In addition to the EDA’s support, the Siegel Family Endowment and Walmart have contributed to the Rural Innovation Initiative and helped graduate 25 communities from across the country.

“It takes a unique combination of vision, grit, and leadership for any rural community to design a competitive Build to Scale Venture Challenge application,” said Leah Taylor, CORI’s Head of Digital Economy Consulting. “Every single one of the 2021 communities we worked with demonstrated each of these qualities to build ecosystem partnerships and raise 50% match for their projects — a feat that should not be underestimated in a rural context where time and resources are often scarce. Regardless of whether they were awarded a grant this year, I am confident that each community will take meaningful steps forward to achieve their digital economy visions in the coming years.” 

Since its inception in 2018, more than 250 communities have applied to participate in the Rural Innovation Initiative program. Selected participants receive a range of support as they refine their innovation hub strategies, including on-site visits from CORI and RISI staff, virtual strategy sessions through the B2S application period, and expert guidance along with templates and written resources. These Rural Innovation Initiative participants have also joined CORI’s Rural Innovation Network, a growing collective of rural communities in 18 states working to train local residents in digital skills, employ them in new economy jobs, and empower them to launch the startups that will drive their future economies. 

To date, this program has graduated 25 communities and helped rural communities secure more than $17 million to build tech accelerator programs and other elements of scalable entrepreneurship strategies in rural communities.


About the Center on Rural Innovation

The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) was founded in 2017 to address the dramatic opportunity gap between rural and urban communities that grew out of the Great Recession. CORI is committed to advancing economic prosperity in rural America through the creation of inclusive digital economy ecosystems that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation. To do this work, they partner with their sister organization, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), a taxable nonprofit corporation using data-driven strategies, leading-edge geospatial tools, and digital economy expertise to advance their shared vision for rural equity and opportunity.

Contact: Rebekah Collinsworth
Center on Rural Innovation (CORI)