Friday, September 25, 2009

Rural Oklahoma towns offer insight into how to foster entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs have proven their worth in revitalizing rural America, but how exactly do small towns foster entrepreneurship? Brian Whitacre and Lara Brooks examined five rural Oklahoma towns with successful entrepreneurship records to determine just that, and wrote up their findings for the Daily Yonder earlier this month. The towns benefited from geography and natural amenities, but they were from four diverse geographic regions with very different levels and types of amenities. (Yonder map by Whitacre and Brooks)

Emphasizing Main Street was the first strategy Witacre and Brooks noticed from the successful towns. "Cordell has emphasized its history and proudly promotes its unique courthouse, while also looking to the future," they wrote. "Now there are high-speed fiber optic lines in place for businesses requiring them."

For neighboring Davis and Sulpher, putting aside their traditional geographic rivalry was key to working together, teh pair found. "The turning point came when key individuals from both communities applied for and received an Initiative for the Future of Rural Oklahoma grant that helped them think about their shared goals and walk through the issues they had."

Pryor, the home to the largest rural industrial park in the U.S., was an example of a rural community "focusing on its assets," Whitacre and Brooks write. The local high school featured a workforce development program that provided students the type of professional certificates businesses at the park required.

Woodward, in northwest Oklahoma, proved that small businesses need to diversify. "The arrival of Wal-Mart has prompted small business owners to find niche markets that complement the big-box retailer, such as creating customized versions of clothing or materials, or specializing in older, vintage retail," the Yonder reports. (Read more)

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