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Director's Dialogue: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By  Erik Pedersen | May 21, 2014



What I'm talking about is that we are beginning the process of selecting the new Entrepreneurship (E-) Communities to partner with, in addition to the 44 that are currently in our network.

We are nearing a time of year that is very special to me. No, it's not summer vacation with the family or the father/son fishing trip that I'll finally be able to go on this year, although both of those are nice.

What I'm talking about is that we are beginning the process of selecting the new Entrepreneurship (E-) Communities to partner with, in addition to the 44 that are currently in our network. These are communities that have made a decision to meet, plan, work and implement steps to help them create a more active and thriving entrepreneurial environment in their community.

It's a competitive process; it's not easy. Multiple meetings are required of these dedicated community leaders as they select a leadership team and financial review board, and then more work is required as they engage the tax preparers to promote donations in exchange for tax credits.

For the finalist communities, even more time has to be set aside as they meet with me to talk more about how we envision this partnership working. In the fall, 4-6 communities will be selected. The end result for each of these is the creation of a locally controlled revolving loan fund, starting out with somewhere between $60,000 and $140,000, and in some cases growing to over $225,000 over years. But creating this fund isn't the silver bullet.

In fact, this is the point when the real work begins for these passionate individuals and their community. We work together to cuss and discuss any and all ideas that can help their local businesses start easier and grow quicker. But, wow! The ideas that are generated and implemented are so exciting to be a part of.

It may be an incubator in downtown, it could be a QuickBooks course brought to the community to assist with better back-room skills, it could be an entrepreneurial center created out of a shuttered schoolhouse, it could be a commercial kitchen, it could be a class to help rural retail businesses with marketing and retail strategies, it could be a series of classes designed to change the entrepreneurial mindset, it could be a business event held after hours where mentors can share real-life experiences with new entrepreneurs, it could be a local or regional entrepreneurship fair where the next generation of entrepreneurs are celebrated.......you get the picture.

We're going to partner with 4-6 new communities this year and they're going to create a local loan fund and that's going to get most of the publicity. However, make no mistake about it, it's the behind the scenes work, the processes, assistance and ideas that bubble out of these groups that truly make for a growing entrepreneurial environment in rural Kansas. I look forward to adding new communities to our network and working with the existing communities even further in the coming months.

Check back next month for the latest from the Director's seat.