Entrepreneurs and Their Communities: Part 2 “What Makes a Community or Region Entrepreneurial?”
Posted: July 31, 2012
Everyone knows that Silicon Valley is a mecca for tech company startups, New York is for the media industry and Pittsburgh is becoming a mecca for the biotech industry. Economic development in America rests primarily with communities and regions. “How do we create the conditions for successful entrepreneurship in our region or community?” is a question being asked by economic development and public leaders in rural and urban communities across Pennsylvania.
Researchers, entrepreneurs and economic development practitioners across the United States have been studying and working in entrepreneurial regions or communities such as the Silicon Valley, Boulder CO, the Research Triangle and rural North Carolina pretty much agree that five factors are especially important in communities where entrepreneurs are successful:
• Local Networks
• Supportive Infrastructure
• Enabling Culture
• Access to Capital
• Supportive Government Policies
Local networks – This refers to local places (both virtual and physical locations) where entrepreneurs can gain access to and develop relationships with peers and service providers having the expertise or knowledge about the process of starting and growing a business. What local networks for entrepreneurs exist in your region or community?
Supportive Infrastructure – Entrepreneurial communities have supportive and reliable physical infrastructures. These supportive infrastructures are broadband, transportation, water and sewer facilities. Has the public and private sectors invested in improving or upgrading these infrastructures across your region or community?
Enabling Culture – At the most basic level, an enabling culture is one that understands, recognizes, and honors the importance of local entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial regions and communities build understanding about the importance of local entrepreneurs by including entrepreneurship education to all segments of the population by including entrepreneurship education offerings in universities, community colleges and more recently primary and secondary schools. Are the educational institutions in your region or community incorporating entrepreneurship education classes? Entrepreneurial regions or communities recognize entrepreneurs by including them on local boards or might organize regional business plan competitions to help publicize local entrepreneurs. How many entrepreneurs are on your regional or community economic development or chamber of commerce boards? Entrepreneurial regions or communities create awards that might recognize entrepreneurs for their service on local boards, mentoring other entrepreneurs, innovation or creating jobs in the community. How are entrepreneurs recognized in your region or community?
Access to Capital – Successful entrepreneurial regions or communities have a range of options available for financing businesses at different stages of the business life cycle. These options include traditional loans, microloans for very small enterprises with limited collateral and equity financing. Are these financing options available to entrepreneurs in your region or community?
Supportive Government Policies – Entrepreneurs are more likely to flourish in a region or community where government and community leaders are “entrepreneur-friendly.” These provisions might include a range of private and publicly-funded business services including technical assistance, incubators, one-stop centers where entrepreneurs can learn about local and state ordinances and permits required to start or expand a business or other types of specialized support. What are the “entrepreneur-friendly” services available in your region or community?
There is broad agreement that the five factors summarized in this article are common in regions with high numbers of successful entrepreneurs. I will delve deeper into these factors and additional initiatives that can be considered by community leaders to create a sense of place that will attract people to move to your region or community to start their business and more importantly to stay there!
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