Elevating Rural Entrepreneurship in KY/Southeast through Innovation

By Ashley D. Bell, Region IV Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration

Covering: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

 

Entrepreneurs in the Southeast’s agricultural industry, including Kentucky, will now be better able to connect to suppliers, service providers, institutions and each other as part of a recently expanded initiative powered by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

AgLaunch, based in Memphis, Tennessee, is one of seven new Regional Innovation Clusters nationwide receiving a competitively awarded contract through a competitive process. AgLaunch will help small businesses start, expand and support the next generation of farming capabilities in 98 primarily rural counties in Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee, many of which are located in the Delta region. The announcement of these seven new clusters, including AgLaunch is another exciting story to be told of the strong commitment the Administration and SBA have to Rural America.

Regional Innovation Clusters are geographically concentrated groups of interconnected businesses in a particular industry that work together to drive innovation, job creation and economic growth. The AgLaunch cluster focuses on helping more farmers and rural small businesses to connect urban food processing opportunities and emerging consumer demands. It also helps innovators commercialize promising technologies needed by customers in the government and private industry.

Like the SBA itself, Regional Innovation Clusters convene resources to help small businesses navigate funding, procurement and supply-chain opportunities. This enables small businesses to compete on a larger scale. The clusters require partnerships with and between business and industry groups, academic institutions, economic development organizations, entrepreneurial education programs and training initiatives.

With this latest expansion of seven new hubs, the SBA now supports 14 Regional Innovation Clusters nationwide. The SBA’s goal is to increase small business participation and economic activity in the regions and industries they support. More information on these clusters can be found here in the local assistance section of the SBA website.

I am proud to host a Regional Innovation Cluster in the Southeast and I look forward to sharing the great successes that result. Please follow us on Twitter @SBASoutheast to learn more.