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.

For rural places that have already begun working on building new entrepreneurship capacity in their communities, the Rural Innovation Initiative will provide a fast-paced capacity building sprint in preparation for launch in the first quarter of 2019.

Those communities will receive intensive, on-site 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 must be designated as rural counties according to U.S. Census definitions. Consortiums of multiple communities within close geographic proximity may also apply. There is no cost to apply or join the Initiative, but participation will take a real commitment of time and energy from local organizations during the project period.

If your community is interested in learning more about the Rural Innovation Initiative, complete this form by January 15, 2019 and we'll be in touch.

Successful communities will ideally 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;
  • Proximity to a selective, 4-year endowed residential college or university campus willing to partner; and
  • A willing non-profit organization prepared to lead the initiative.

For more information about whether your community might be a candidate, explore CORI’s Rural Opportunity Map. Then fill out the form on this page to let us know your community is interested in participating.

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

On December 18th and 19th, we will host a 1-hour webinar to provide more information about the Rural Innovation Initiative, introduce our team, and offer initial resources that will be helpful to a range of communities interested in pursuing an innovation hub strategy.


December 18th 4pm ET webinar
December 19th 1pm ET webinar

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.