Growing Entrepreneurial Communities

In the last week of November, 2017, a group of thought-leaders on entrepreneur-led economic development from across the nation gathered in Kansas City for a gathering called Growing Entrepreneurial Communities.

What is entrepreneur-led economic development? It is the idea that the creation of businesses by entrepreneurs is the most sustainable and equitable way to facilitate economic prosperity in any community, no matter the size. But, enabling entrepreneurship involves an “ecosystem” approach – or the development of a rich support system for entrepreneurs, led by entrepreneurs, and supported by community organizations, economic developers, workforce, government, education, and others.

This gathering was hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and SourceLink, and supported by the Kauffman Foundation – all entities that are focused on supporting entrepreneurship and economic development. The ~30 leaders who attended came from small communities or networks, such as the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, national or international networks, such as the International Economic Development Council and the National Center for Economic Gardening, and educational and research entities who are interested in supporting entrepreneurship, such as Brookings and the Institute for Work and the Economy at DePaul University in Chicago. These far flung entities all have something in common – advancing the way local entities can both support entrepreneurship and document and measure the ways that entrepreneurs are transforming communities across the nation for the better.

Some of the key take aways from the gathering:

  • There is a committed network of practitioners working throughout the country to build, advance, track, and measure entrepreneurial ecosystem success.
  • The core goal is to create wealth and equity within communities and regions by supporting entrepreneurs.
  • A high impact action that the group is pursuing is a paradigm shift for economic development practitioners, from a focus on talent recruitment to entrepreneurship ecosystem development. Credentialing, continuing education for economic developers, and advancing research and metrics that show a relationship between local economic prosperity and entrepreneurship are all strategies that the group is pursuing.
  • This small group gathering supported the development of larger Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit in April 2018 to bring together more communities from across the nation to explore these topics further.

Valley Vision has a vested interest and strong role is supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Capital region. Through our work on SlingShot, Valley Vision has managed, for the four regional Workforce Development Boards (SETA, Golden Sierra, North Central Counties Consortium, and Yolo), efforts to grow entrepreneurial supports here. In Spring 2017, through SlingShot, SETA released $750K to support entrepreneurs and develop an online resource locator for services that support the region’s entrepreneurs. These services and the locator will help grow our communities’ entrepreneurs by creating new mentorship services, new physical spaces, and make support services more accessible and transparent for users.

Sacramento has seen increased activity for entrepreneurs – two immediate examples are the opening of a new space by Urban Hive and the recent expansion of Hacker Lab in Rocklin. Gatherings like this one in Kansas City help us learn what is working in other communities and help communicate our success to others across the country.

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Director of Strategy and Evaluation.

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