Creating an Entrepreneurial Environment

What We Learned

When economic developers talk about a positive environment for economic development, they are often talking about the business climate in the traditional sense – are there sites in the industrial park, is the community “business friendly,” are there roads and sewers for new factories? When we talk about an entrepreneurial environment, we’re talking about much more.

There are three components of this environment that community leaders need to address:

  • Culture – Awareness of the importance of entrepreneurs to the local economy, celebration of the value that entrepreneurs bring, openness to entrepreneurs who often march to the beat of a different drummer, acceptance that failure is part of the entrepreneurial process and a willingness to encourage and support entrepreneurs when their first (or even second) venture doesn’t pan out
  • Infrastructure – Moving beyond the typical notion of infrastructure to include traditional and non-traditional leadership, educational institutions like community colleges and regional universities, cultural and recreational resources, quality schools, social organizations that are diverse and emphasize creativity
  • Entrepreneurial support elements – Specific programs and initiatives designed to provide a range of support to entrepreneurs of all types when and how they need it, including service providers like the Chamber and Small Business Development Centers, networking organizations and opportunities, financing programs, business incubation services, mentoring and coaching, and youth entrepreneurship education in and outside the schools.

To explore these concepts in more depth, we suggest Energizing an Entrepreneurial Economy – A Guide for County Leaders.

Understanding the components of an entrepreneurial environment is just the first step in helping your community become more entrepreneurial. You also have to consider your readiness for entrepreneurship. As part of the Energizing Entrepreneurship institute, we explored a Readiness Assessment tool that provides a useful way for you to think about whether your community is ready to embrace entrepreneurship as a development strategy. This tool identifies six readiness factors to consider:

  • Openness to entrepreneurship as a development strategy
  • Commitment to balancing business attraction and support for entrepreneurs
  • Availability of entrepreneurship programs and support services
  • Willingness to invest in entrepreneurship development strategies
  • A leadership team committed to entrepreneurship
  • Willingness to work beyond town borders to tap resources and achieve success

How can you get started? You might want to start by getting a sense of how supportive of entrepreneurs your community’s current environment is. You can use the Rate Your Community Support test as one easy way to have community leaders weigh in on entrepreneurship – use it at a Chamber meeting, a county commission or town council meeting, with local entrepreneurs and young people in your schools. The results may help you determine where you need to start in creating an entrepreneurial environment in your community.

Creating an Entrepreneurial Environment