Desperately Seeking Start-Ups

A pilot program is matching up entrepreneurs with communities with strengths in their industries.
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Wanted: Entrepreneurial types, ready to launch promising businesses. Must be willing to relocate -- to DuBois, Pa.

Sound far-fetched? Not if a North Dakota company has its way. MetaDynamics, an economic-development consulting firm based in Grand Forks, N. Dak., has recently launched a project called Enterprise Homesteading. In a pilot program funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, MetaDynamics is working with three communities to identify industries in which the communities have special strengths. Then the consultants and the communities will work to recruit individuals who want to launch start-ups in those industries. The problem, according to MetaDynamics president Delore Zimmerman: many educated young people leave rural areas, leaving few people to start the next generation of businesses. And small towns often find it hard to compete with the thousands of other economic-development officials trying to lure established companies.

Will Enterprise Homesteading succeed? It's far too early to tell. Jacob Rouch, executive director of the DuBois Area Economic Development Corp., credits the MetaDynamics team with acting as a catalyst in his community. For example, DuBois now has a new steering committee thinking about ways to assist all entrepreneurs, whether local or imported. And the MetaDynamics project has already unearthed one potential recruit: a DuBois business leader knew of a former area resident who was interested in moving back to start a business. Realistically, Rouch admits, DuBois is not expecting an onslaught of entrepreneurs from other areas; he thinks the most likely prospects will be people who already have personal ties to the rural area, where the unemployment rate is 10.5%. "We don't have any illusions that we're going to attract a 100-employee company," he says. "This is really trying to win the war of job creation one or two jobs at a time." -- Martha E. Mangelsdorf

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Words to the Wise

"Try not to get frustrated; if it was easy [to start a company], everyone would go into business for themselves and then there would be no money in it."

-- From The Greenhouse Workbook, a training manual for new-business founders written by Tim Armstrong and David DeMarkey at Clackamas Community College, in Milwaukie, Oreg.

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Last updated: Aug 1, 1994




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