In partnership with our sister organization, RISI, we’re helping rural communities realize their vision for creating digital economy jobs and kickstarting their economies.

Rural America has struggled to bounce back from the recession. Entrepreneurship has been on the decline for the last decade, and the trend is hitting rural communities particularly hard. The Rural Innovation Initiative will help communities change that story.

This new project will work to bridge the opportunity gap in rural America by helping communities build the capacity to create resilient, innovation-based jobs.

Following a competitive nationwide search with 130 applicants from 40 states, nine communities have been selected to participate in a fast-paced technical assistance sprint in the first quarter of 2019.

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
  • City of Wilson, North Carolina

Those communities will receive intensive technical assistance 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. Communities will need to 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.

Eligible communities were chosen because they are designated as rural counties according to U.S. Census definitions and 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, 4-year endowed residential college or university campus; and
  • A willing non-profit organization prepared to lead the initiative.

The application deadline for participating in the Q1 2019 technical assistance sprint has now passed. As part of the Rural Innovation Initiative, there will be opportunities for rural communities to join our network, engage with each other, and access webinars and other resources. If you would like to join our email list and receive periodic updates about the program, please fill out this form and we will be in touch.

The Rural Innovation Initiative is made possible through a cooperative agreement between RISI and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Ready to find out more?

View our December 2018 webinar to learn more about the Rural Innovation Initiative.

This content 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.