Suzanne Julian is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration. She is currently working with the STEP leadership team in Pamlico County as part of the Carolina Economic Revitalization Corps program.
Pamlico Community College (PCC) is one of 13 recipients of an “Economic Innovation” grant from the North Carolina Rural Center. The $75,000 the grant provides will help to fund a new entrepreneurship-development program in the Small Business Center at PCC. This program is called Entrepreneurial Economic Enhancement (E3), and it aims to help low-wealth, high-potential residents (particularly those exiting prison) become entrepreneurs. The two-year program has three components: participants open IDAs (Individual Development Accounts), work individually with experienced mentors, and join their peers for training in financial literacy and entrepreneurship.The E3 initiative fits into Pamlico County’s existing economic-development strategy of supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses. For instance, Pamlico County Schools and the PCC adopted the REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship through Active Learning) curriculum earlier this year, and economic development planners in the county have been working on creating support structures for local businesses in the county’s most promising industries.
In addition to helping to advance the county-wide strategy of entrepreneurship and small-business development, the E3 project has three main goals:
- To break down barriers and empower low-wealth residents through mentorship, education, positive experiences, and access to capital.
- To help build a diverse, county-wide business community that provides support, mentoring, and networking opportunities for its members.
- To support and facilitate the successful opening of 2-3 new businesses in the county by the end of the project’s third year.
Asset development and education are important parts of community development. I’ve written before about individual development accounts and their role in helping to build community capacity, and this program does a nice job of using asset-development to complement more traditional education and training strategies.
E3 will engage 15 participants each year. Along with offering participants match money for each dollar they save (up to a limit), the program includes rewards structures meant to encourage participants to build new savings and money-management habits. Each cohort will also receive training in financial literacy, business skills, and entrepreneurship, and will travel together to regional conferences and workshops to learn more about entrepreneurship. Participants will also work one on one with mentors to develop their business plans and navigate the challenges of conceptualizing, funding, and starting a new business.
The Rural Center’s funding of this project is great news for the county. The Economic Innovation grant is part of a much larger cycle of recent funding from the Rural Center: all together, the Rural Center is awarding $4.5 million to projects that work towards clean water, job creation, or economic development. More on those projects can be found on the Rural Center’s website.