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Incubating in small communities: The challenges – and opportunities – of operating rural programs

by Mary Jo Milillo

November/December 2009

Business incubation programs in small towns and rural areas often face the same challenges as those in metropolitan areas. Funding issues and replacing lost manufacturing jobs are common denominators for many incubators — no matter the location.

Yet small-town incubators also face situations unique to their regions. One challenge is creating entrepreneurial opportunities in remote, sparsely populated areas that lack resources found in more urban regions. Another challenge is creating high-paying jobs to entice educated young people to remain in their communities after college.

Despite the challenges, many rural communities have found ways to operate thriving, successful incubation programs that grow businesses and create jobs. In this article, several managers share what they’ve learned about creating and guiding incubators in small communities. Read on for their advice.

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This article also is available as a PDF Quick Reference document through the NBIA Bookstore.

Keywords: best practices, budget – incubator, funding sources/fundraising – incubator, incubator management – general, rural incubator, university partnerships

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