An entrepreneurial community, or "EC," is one that builds on existing strengths to create new opportunities for community members. Entrepreneurial communities pursue entrepreneurship as a local or regional economic development strategy. These communities look for ways to capitalize on assets to find their niche in the global economy. These communities also work to support the entrepreneurial efforts of their residents. Although many communities are not likely to label themselves as “entrepreneurial,” the reality is that most communities have some entrepreneurial features. These features can serve as valuable resources for uncovering, nurturing, and developing legitimate and coherent strategies for strengthening local and regional economic development efforts.
A second way to describe an entrepreneurial community is to think of the entrepreneurial qualities of a community along a continuum. A community progresses along that continuum as it demonstrates an increasing awareness and commitment to entrepreneurship as a vital part of its efforts to strengthen and transform its economy. Some of these features include: leadership development, the capacity and willingness of citizens to work together on community goals, the presence of current and potential entrepreneurs, a business-friendly environment, development opportunities, and financial/capital acquisition assistance. The more features that communities embrace, the more progress they are likely to make along the entrepreneurial continuum.
There are many existing sources of information about community based entrepreneurship. These sources cover a wide array of topics. We have listed some that may be useful for your community. This list includes comprehensive overviews of community based entrepreneurship, information on some of the many different strategies for developing entrepreneurial communities (Entrepreneurial Development Systems, Home Town Competitiveness, the Entrepreneurial League System, Entrepreneurial Friendly Communities, Economic Gardening, Entrepreneurial Coaching, Enterprise Facilitation, and the EDGE Program). We also include some sources for entrepreneurial community support services and programs (business incubators, the Mainstreet Program, entrepreneurial networks and clubs) and youth entrepreneurship.
- The Journal of the Community Development Society’s “Special Issue on Entrepreneurship in Community Development” (Volume 35, No.1, 2004).
- The RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, http://www.energizingentrepreneurs.org/.
- Entrepreneurial Development Systems (EDS)
- Oweesta Collaborative, http://www.oweesta.org/main/ps/collaborative
- Advantage Valley EDS, http://www.advantagevalleyels.com/about.html
- North Carolina’s Rural EDS, http://www.ncruralcenter.org/entrepreneurship/development.asp
- HomeTown Competitiveness
- The Entrepreneurial League System®
- Georgia’s Entrepreneurial Friendly Communities program
- Economic Gardening
- Entrepreneurial Coaching
- Sirolli Institute and Enterprise Facilitation™
- Business Incubators
- Entrepreneurial Networks or Clubs
- Main Street Program, http://www.mainstreet.org
- EDGE Program
- Youth Entrepreneurship Programs
Prepared by Marion Bentley,Utah State University and Deborah M. Tootle, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service