Nurturing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia

For the last two years, EntreWorks Consulting has led a major Appalachian Regional Commission-sponsored research project entitled Documenting and Strengthening Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia.  With our colleagues at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, we’ve been engaged in a deep dive to understand the entrepreneurial economy across the 13-state, 420-county, Appalachian region.  The results of this work were released today at an event in Cattaraugus County, New York.

This work, which can be accessed at, contains lots of interesting insights and data.  For those interested in the state of Appalachia, you’ll be interested to know that our research finds that most Appalachian counties perform well, and host levels of start-up and high-growth business activity that are similar to those found in other regions of the US.   The project also produced a report, Building an Entrepreneurial Future: Ideas for Appalachia’s Ecosystem Builders and Champions, that offers policy recommendations for building stronger regional entrepreneurial ecosystems across Appalachia.

Community leaders and economic developers may be most interested in our eight regional case studies that examine the challenges and opportunities around regional ecosystem building efforts.  They can also tap into a working resource inventory that provides background and contact information for key ecosystem partners operating in every county and state across Appalachia.

Last but not least, data geeks and policy wonks may want to check out the project’s data dashboard that tracks the entrepreneurial economy in every county across Appalachia.  For the first time, data on start-ups, high-growth companies, and Stage 2 businesses (with 10-99 employees) is provided for all 420 counties in Appalachia and their performance is benchmarked against state, regional, and national averages.  In addition, a project literature review assesses what the academic and policy literature tell us about nurturing entrepreneurial ecosystems.

This has been a fun and rewarding project that we hope will advance the conversations about innovation and entrepreneurship in Appalachia and across the US.   A thriving entrepreneurial economy is emerging in Appalachia.  This project details these trends, and will hopefully help support continued success and economic transformations.