The Washington State Main Street Program has been named one of 10 grant recipients of the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural Main Streets Program, organized by Main Street America with funding from the Kauffman Foundation.

The Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural Main Streets Program advances Main Street America’s longtime work in ecosystem building in Main Street towns and cities across the country. The program combines collaboration with Forward Cities for an equity and inclusiveness lens, as well as professional development training in entrepreneurial-led development through the International Economic Development Council.

According to Main Street America, the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Program will help rural communities increase economic development strength and resiliency. “Rural communities across the country are confronting the difficult task of transitioning their primary economies away from extractive industries, agriculture, and manufacturing,” says MSA’s Chief Program Officer Matt Wagner, Ph.D. “This decades-long challenge has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a devastating and disproportionate impact on women and BIPOC entrepreneurs in rural communities. Holistic, place-based, equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems offer a promising path forward for these communities as a core economic development strategy. However, much of the current work on equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem development nationally is focused on large cities. There is a need to deliver these services to rural communities, and Main Street America is uniquely positioned to address that need in partnership with its state and regional coordinating programs.”

All state or regional Main Street America coordinating programs with at least three Main Street communities with populations of 50,000 or less were eligible to apply for the grant opportunity. In addition to the Washington State Main Street Program, grants were awarded to Main Street coordinating programs in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Puerto Rico.

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Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Workshop

The first activity that the Washington State Main Street Program will undertake as part of the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Program is a free statewide workshop, taking place at Central Washington University Business Foundry in Downtown Ellensburg on November 6-7, 2023.

The workshop is a free educational opportunity for any rural community in Washington. Workshop content will focus on the topics of: Entrepreneurship and Mindset, Equitable Ecosystems, Ecosystem Building Blocks and Support, and Preparing for the Ecosystem Building. We’ll cover several tools and templates for you to better assess your community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, its assets and gaps, and the role that your Main Street and partner organizations play, along with targeted next steps to map out and utilize your ecosystem. You’ll leave with the tools and understanding of how to put the pieces of your ecosystem together equitably and with entrepreneurs in mind.

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Any Washington Main Street Community or Affiliate intending to apply for the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (EEE) in Rural Communities Technical Assistance (TA) Grant must attend this workshop. Three organizations in Washington State will be selected to receive these in-depth planning services from Main Street America and partners in 2024. The EEE TA Grant includes the following:

  • An in-person community visit from Main Street America staff
  • EEE Tool Overview and Implementation
  • A Holistic Ecosystem Assessment
  • Community Demographic Profile Creation
  • Stakeholder and Entrepreneur Focus Group facilitation

The goal of the EEE TA grant is threefold—to assess and map the community entrepreneurial ecosystem; to highlight gaps, barriers, needs, and access restrictions; and to create a personalized community strategic plan to respond to the findings of the assessment. Additionally, five virtual workshop meetings will be hosted to support ongoing progress, along with limited seed funding to support implementation of the strategic plan. Funding will also be provided to support your personal professional development via the International Economic Development Council’s Entrepreneurship Development Professional Certification.

Applications for the TA Grant will open in November 2023, but Main Street Communities and Affiliates are invited to submit a brief letter of interest (a simple email will suffice) to at any time.

Lodging in Ellensburg

We have worked with Hotel Windrow in Ellensburg to provide a discounted rate for EEE Workshop attendees. Attendees must reserve a room by October 6th in order to receive the discounted rate. After this date, we can’t guarantee this opportunity. Note also that this rate is only applicable to attendees of this event, and can’t be used outside of this event.

Group Rate Code: PRESERVEWA

Guests can either reserve a room through this booking link or call the front desk at 509-962-8000 and reference the rate code.