Rural entrepreneurship in Wisconsin and Minnesota will get a boost from a newly created Extension program at each state’s land grant university. Two farm credit associations – Compeer Financial and AgCountry Farm Credit Services – contributed $400,000 over four years to make the program possible at the universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Entrepreneurs create stable jobs for themselves and others and they contribute to an overall sense of place and quality of life in rural settings. But starting and growing a rural business is hard work. Typically, rural communities have fewer people and fewer resources to support entrepreneurial opportunities.
Building upon the research and outreach capabilities of Extension, the new program will create and build linkages in entrepreneurial networks, improve the availability and use of resources to entrepreneurs, create opportunities for entrepreneurs, and develop the skills necessary for success in the modern rural economy.
“There’s great energy around starting new businesses in our states, but in rural locations there are unique challenges, too, ranging from financing to broadband and child care,” said U of M Extension dean Bev Durgan.
University of Wisconsin Extension dean Karl Martin added, “Communities succeed when ideas for businesses can grow into thriving realities. This funding will help the land-grant universities bring our strengths to the table to help. This new outreach is only the beginning, and we plan to expand offerings and service.”
Both Martin and Durgan noted that Compeer and AgCountry’s contributions reflect the donors’ long-held commitment to rural Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“As a cooperative serving and supporting rural communities, we see the value entrepreneurs bring to rural economies,” said John Monson, chief mission and marketing officer at Compeer Financial. “This program will champion those individuals who are bringing innovative ideas to rural America.”
“We know there is a lot of potential for additional rural entrepreneurs to step up when the right resources are available,” said Troy Andreasen, chief marketplace officer at AgCountry. “This is an investment in the future vitality of rural communities across our great states.”
The joint program will hire new staff and form an advisory group to help guide its efforts. The program builds upon the capacity of the Center for Community Vitality at University of Minnesota Extension and the Community Economic Development program at UW-Madison Extension.