Here’s what panelists had to say during a Journal Live discussion about what can be learned from a heart community’s efforts to embrace entrepreneurship.
Collaborate. Build relationships. Acknowledge the naysayers, but don’t let them derail you. Imagine your goals and work to achieve them.
These are some of the key models emerging in revitalized communities that nurture entrepreneurship through public and private investment and in doing so stabilize their populations, create an economic base, attract young and old to live and work there, and serve as role models for other communities.
The Journal discussed these facets of entrepreneurship from the heart on June 22 during the third of three live-streamed events on the topic. Editor Chris Green moderated a panel that included:
- Don Macke, senior vice president of e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Lincoln, Nebraska, hosted by NetWork Kansas.
- Caleb Pollard, co-owner of Scratchtown Brewing Co. in Ord, Nebraska.
- Trent and Heidi Proskocil, co-owners of Valley Thunder Rods and Restoration in Ord.
- Mike Sherry, a Journal contributor whose story “Could More Entrepreneurs Help Revive the Heart?” is featured in the summer 2022 edition of the Journal
- Kansas Leadership Center Personalized Civic Engagement Manager Alejandro Arias-Esparza and KLC Director of Leadership Development Julia Fabris McBride who visited communities in Nebraska to learn about entrepreneurship
Nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit has been a key factor in Ord, Nebraska’s recent success, stabilizing the population, growing its economic base, and making it a…
Over the past 20 years, Ord and surrounding areas have received $25 million in public and private investment, resulting in the creation of over 100 businesses and 350 jobs. Nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit has been key to this growth and has made Ord a better place to live, say Macke and other community members. And Ord’s lessons could apply to any small community.
“This is a conversation about Ord, Nebraska, … but … also about all of rural America and all of the heart and about revitalizing those communities and helping them prepare for a stable and prosperous future,” says Green.
“Ignoring the naysayers” is the most important lesson for entrepreneurs, along with “courage and determination,” says Sherry. Creating an inviting environment for young people feeds on itself and becomes self-sufficient. And the esprit de corps of entrepreneurs and the wider community sets the tone for growth.
A broader, less formal definition of leadership is also at work in vibrant entrepreneurial communities like Ord, where “we don’t ask permission to roll up our sleeves and get things done,” says Pollard.
This approach requires everyone to show leadership by contributing ideas and taking action – not waiting for elected officials to act, although they can facilitate positive change and be “accountable and dependent as assets to challenge the status quo.” quo,” says Pollard.
He cited the example of Ord’s sales tax program to fund entrepreneurial growth and infrastructure to spur economic and community development, which “makes Ord and Valley County a better place to live.”
Ord’s entrepreneurial approach has produced “probably the most telling statistic,” Macke says: rural Nebraska has lost 12 percent of its population over the past 20 years. Valley County’s population has stabilized and Ord’s has increased. Rural Nebraska lost 9% of its workers, but Ord gained 9%.
Despite Ord’s success, other communities sometimes see success differently, says Arias-Esparza. He countered any idea that it is easy to find capital.
“That’s not what I heard in some of the communities we went to,” he says, adding that “Spanish business owners don’t hear about capital investments or they don’t not talking about capital loans at the present time. They always hear it in the past: “You should have applied for that loan; you should have accessed those resources.’ It’s a pretty big role in rural communities, in the growing Spanish-speaking demographic.
McBride says that “the guiding light for the people of Ord is to diagnose their situation from their strength and aspirations.”
Pollard made two other key points: Entrepreneurs and others should recognize that burnout happens. Stepping back can energize their comeback.
“One of the main reasons I took a step back was that we had high school students,” says Pollard. It freed up time to watch her kids compete in science competitions and play sports. But taking a step back also allows you to volunteer at the library or to supervise teams. Choosing to live in small towns stems from a family approach.
“We balance our business needs with those of our family.”
Watch the full discussion on Ord, Nebraska, by visiting the Kansas Leadership Center YouTube channel. The virtual dialogue was the third in a three-part discussion series entitled “signs of renewalwhich focused on the role of entrepreneurship in creating stronger core communities. Watch a replay of The Journal’s magazine launch event and a recap of the Kansas Leadership Center program Heartland Together round.
For more coverage of entrepreneurship and community vitality, read The Journal’s stories Summer 2022 edition.
A version of this article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of The Journal, a publication of the Kansas Leadership Center. To learn more about KLC, visit http://kansasleadershipcenter.org. Order your copy of the magazine at KLC Store Where subscribe to the print edition.
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