It is about regions coming together on behalf of small business owners
Entrepreneurship is widely acknowledged as a key economic development strategy for communities of all sizes. However, few communities, counties or regions possess the capacity to encourage new startups and nurture existing businesses to foster real economic growth. The University of Northern Iowa’s Business and Community Services hosts an Economic Development Administration (EDA) University Center charged with assisting Iowa communities in developing and implementing strategic plans to address this challenge. Since 2013, the Regional Entrepreneurship Project has brought economic development organizations, chamber of commerce, small business development centers, community colleges, colleges and universities, current business owners, and area leaders together to offer business assistance, provide access to capital, encourage networking, and create a supportive culture in which to operate a business.
REP regions selected based upon:
- Economic distress
- Business closings/layoffs
- Population decline
- Natural disasters
- Commitment to focusing on small business development as an economic development strategy
Seventeen counties in five regions have undertaken the four key aspects of the Regional Entrepreneurship Project (2013-2017):
- Research and assessment of existing small business resources and needs
- Education of regional stakeholders on the importance of supporting small businesses owners
- Development of a strategic plan for regional entrepreneurship
- Implementation of the strategic plan and sharing of best practices between regions
Success can be measured in the service providers collaborating in a case management to assist small businesses, business owners being encouraged consider topics such as business succession, networking events spreading from urban areas to rural communities, and school districts incorporating entrepreneurship in their classrooms. Together, the Regions identify nearly $6 million in private investment, 34 new or expanded companies and 144 of the jobs that have have been influenced by their counties' participation in the REP.