10 Communities Selected to Participate in 2020 Rural Innovation Initiative to Catalyze Digital Economy Job Growth in Small Town America – Center on Rural Innovation (CORI)

“Retooling local economies for the industries of the future is no easy task,” said Craig Buerstatte, Acting Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “This partnership and the time and resources these communities have committed to this effort are a great example of the team mentality required to make sustainable progress towards new jobs and economic development. It truly takes a village.”

Rural Innovation Initiative participants will receive a range of support, from on-site and video conference time with RISI staff to opportunities for collaboration with similarly motivated communities, as well as templates and written resources 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 economies. 

RISI will work with participating communities to help them identify and prepare for federal and other funding opportunities that fit their unique attributes and goals. Some 2020 Rural Innovation Initiative communities may choose to apply for federal funding opportunities like the Regional Innovation Strategies program this year if they raise up to $750k in matching funds in the first half of the year, while others will focus first on establishing plans and partnerships to build their digital economy strategies. Participants will also have access to significant technical assistance to refine their economic development strategies, help them identify partnerships, and leverage existing resources. 

The Rural Innovation Initiative launched in 2019 with nine participant communities. In its first year, the Initiative catalyzed $5.3 million[13] in new investment in rural innovation hubs. More than 110 communities from 37 states and Puerto Rico submitted requests to participate in the technical assistance program this year. 

Participating communities were selected because they are in designated rural counties according to U.S. Census definitions[14] or consortiums of rural communities in close geographic proximity to one another. Successful communities have a combination of the following attributes:

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