This week while participating in the Coastal Caucus Summit in North Bend, Business Oregon announced the launch of its new Rural Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI), a public-private partnership to increase entrepreneurship in rural areas of the state.
“Oregon small businesses are the backbone of a thriving Oregon economy,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “The Rural Entrepreneurship Development Initiative is an exciting new opportunity to leverage the skills and resources of innovative, local entrepreneurs and grow rural Oregon economies.” REDI is designed to invest in local communities and work with existing entrepreneurship and small business service providers to improve access to local and statewide resources for entrepreneurs. REDI will also work to facilitate the sharing of best practices and bridge entrepreneurial networks across the state to ensure that an entrepreneur in rural Oregon has the same support as an entrepreneur in Oregon’s urban centers.
"Rural Oregonians seeking to launch, grow, and scale viable companies have had inconsistent access to networking, capital and mentoring resources," said Chris Harder, director of Business Oregon. "Great resources exist, and we're using this initiative to invest in unique local opportunities and partnerships to improve access."
The initiative will strengthen local capacity based on local needs, not incorporate a one-size-fits-all system. To begin, REDI will work with organizations in Baker City, Klamath Falls, La Grande, and Coos Bay.
In Coos Bay, the initiative is being led locally by the South Coast Development Council (SCDC) in collaboration with ten local partners, all of whom intend to co-locate in a historic building in downtown Coos Bay, which will be called The REEF: Rural Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Framework. In addition to co-located partners, The REEF will house incubation space, a commercial kitchen, co-working space, and have resources dedicated tourism business development. The new collaboration will be managed collaboratively by the local organizations that currently engage in entrepreneurship development. Individuals will be able to walk in, learn more about local resources, and get help with everything from developing a business plan, to going after angel funding.
Exactly what each program looks like in participating communities will vary, but the idea is to create places where entrepreneurs can access services and programs from around the state, work, host meetings, host events and collaborate with other entrepreneurs.
In addition to the entrepreneurial organizations engaged in service delivery for the project, there are foundation and finance partners helping to pull together the funds to make the whole thing happen. One of those partners is Craft3.
"Craft3 has been making business loans to rural Oregonians for twenty-two years," said Adam Zimmerman, CEO of Craft3. "We are encouraged by this effort to grow rural economic opportunity through entrepreneurship, and are pleased to be in the position to offer financial support to accelerate local and state leadership."
The project is underway, and expected to be able to start providing initial services for entrepreneurs as early as Fall 2016.