The Rural Ideas Network, in partnership with the East Central Iowa Council of Governments, has been awarded a $412,105 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to expand its efforts to support rural entrepreneurs across Iowa.
“We are thrilled to partner with the EDA and ECICOG to scale our proven rural entrepreneurship support services to new communities across Iowa. Communities that invest in supporting local entrepreneurs become more resilient and have a higher quality of life for all residents,” said Jordan DeGree, Rural Ideas Network director in a news release.
Since 2020, the Rural Ideas Network has piloted two services geared at supporting entrepreneurs in rural communities – a coworking accelerator program and a virtual Business Lab service.
Through the accelerator program, the Rural Ideas Network staff helps local community partners plan, launch, and operate coworking spaces that serve as innovation and entrepreneurship hubs within the community. To date, five rural coworking spaces have been launched across Iowa and one in Oakes, North Dakota through the accelerator program.
The Business Lab provides a plug & play virtual solution that makes it easier for rural communities to offer robust support to local businesses. Each Business Lab offers a full menu of programs, including one-on-one business coaching, peer learning opportunities, and technical assistance and training opportunities. More than 50 partners have launched Business Labs across five states, giving over 700,000 rural residents access to Business Lab services.
This EDA grant will enable the Rural Ideas Network to scale its capacity to serve new communities in Iowa.
As part of the grant, the Rural Ideas Network will provide low or no-cost services to a select number of rural communities that are interested in opening a coworking space or bringing a Business Lab to their community. In the coming months, a Request for Proposals will be available to communities interested in applying for the scholarships.