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Expertise on right strategy for economic development

 

The Lincoln Economic Development Association kicked off its initiative to foster local entrepreneurship with a “table talk” at Verdict Ridge Country Club on Friday.

Guest speaker Dr. Deborah Markley with the RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship was invited to speak and share her insight from her experience as a leader in the field of rural development and research.

Having presented to national policy organizations and congressional committees, Markley had a lot to say about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to successful entrepreneurial areas.

Markley emphasized that communities must take a balanced approach to economic development and support companies already located in an area, in addition to recruiting new industries.

She also differentiated between entrepreneurs and small-business owners, saying the former “work on a business” while the latter “work in the business.”

As for why communities should support entrepreneurs, Markley listed three primary reasons. First, she said, they turn opportunities into business ventures. Secondly, they create jobs. And last, she noted that entrepreneurs give back, pointing out that it “doesn’t usually say Wal-Mart on the backs of kids’ jerseys.”

Markley also said that “necessity entrepreneurship” has arisen during these tough economic times, with many people feeling they have nothing to lose. In fact, she said there has been a 24 percent increase in self-employment.

She outlined the various ways communities can support their entrepreneurs, such as through freedom and encouragement to innovate, technical assistance, networking opportunities and various forms of capital.

However, she added that many entrepreneurs list monetary assistance after a supportive environment when defining their needs.

“There is a lot of assistance communities can provide before the money kicks in,” she said. “It’s not just money — it’s support.”

While Markley said that many are just interested in talking about jobs in the short term — including the White House Rural Council, with whom she met recently — growing entrepreneurism should be viewed as a long-term strategy.

She concluded her presentation by laying out the steps communities can take for creating a successful atmosphere for entrepreneurs, including being entrepreneur-focused, encouraging networking, engaging young people, creating “no wrong door” and measuring and celebrating outcomes.

LEDA Director Barry Matherly finished the talk by reiterating that it was just a kick-off event and that there are plans for a series of discussions on entrepreneurism, with the hope of developing an organized strategy across the county and between various organizations.

 

SARAH LOWERY, Staff Writer

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