The program is a collaboration between the Center on Rural Innovation, its sister organization Rural Innovation Strategies Inc., and the federal Economic Development Administration, which offered to help identify and serve rural economic development organizations, Bryce Oates reports for The Daily Yonder.
The nine communities were selected from 130 applicants in 40 states, and were chosen because they had existing high-speed broadband; available real estate or significant portions of the community located in New Market Tax Credit census tracts and/or Opportunity Zones; a partnership with a selective, endowed, 4-year college or university; and a non-profit organization willing and prepared to lead the initiative, according to the Rural Innovation website. Selected communities have to be willing to secure a workspace for the innovation hub, raise up to $500,000 for operation expenses, and apply for matching funds at the end of the first quarter of 2019.
Matt Dunne, the founder of CORI and executive director of RISI, said the initiative should make a meaningful impact on the selected small towns through strength in numbers. One entrepreneurship center in one town wouldn't interest national investors, he told Oates, "but, if you create a consortium of communities, and with that a virtual pool of 100 startups, then you can actually get the attention from the folks who are interested in investing in early stage companies."
The participants selected for the 2019 Rural Innovation Initiative are: