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Program Introduction 

Main Street America™ (MSA) is pleased to announce the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural Main Streets Program, supported through a grant from the Kauffman Foundation.  All State and Regional Main Street America Coordinating Programs are invited to apply to partner with MSA to bring this program to your state/region.

Note: This application is for Coordinating Programs only. Interested local Main Street programs should contact their Coordinating Program to be considered for recommendation. 

Rural communities across the U.S. are confronting the difficult task of transitioning their primary economies away from extractive industries, agriculture, and manufacturing. 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. Rural small businesses’ ability to survive and scale is now subject to a number of emerging issues such as workforce and supply chain constraints, as well as how to leverage new opportunities presented through social media and digital commerce.  Holistic, place-based, equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems offer a promising path forward for these communities as a core economic development strategy.  Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems operate in service of local wealth creation, a framework focused on leveraging existing assets to create sustainable and resilient wealth that is rooted locally. 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 (MSA) is uniquely positioned to address that need in partnership with its state and regional coordinating programs.   

Program Outline

This program leverages MSA’s past work in ecosystem building and combines organizational partnerships with Forward Cities (https://forwardcities.org/) for greater equity and inclusiveness, as well as professional development training in entrepreneurial-led development through the International Economic Development Council (https://www.iedconline.org/pages/entrepreneurship-development-professional/).  

Through this LOI, MSA will select 5 states/regional coordinating programs to participate in this program.   Each selected program will receive the following:

1. (1) One-day statewide workshop on Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building that is open to any rural community to attend.

2. Opportunity to select (3) three rural, Main Street communities that will receive in-community and virtual programming designed to form and implement equitable ecosystem building.

3. Opportunity to have coordinating staff participate in all trainings as part of a train-the-trainer process with the hope of expansion to other Main Street programs within the state/region.

4. Professional Development stipends for local directors to participate in IEDC’s new entrepreneurship courses for place-management professionals.

Selection Priorities

Ultimately, Main Street America is looking for equitable entrepreneurship ecosystem work to scale and expand as part of a local Main Street program’s overall economic vitality activities.  Especially in rural economies, the value of place as part of economic development and the ability to leverage our downtowns as centers for human and place-based capital, are critical for building and supporting small businesses at all parts of their life cycle.  As such, one aspect for consideration is the interest of the state/regional program in expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem programming through their own annual work planning and technical assistance.

Secondly, commitment to centering Main Street among other regional and statewide partners in this space and potentially gaining their support for more wrap-around resources.

Third, need as defined for example by current position within the state relative to ecosystem building, as well as lack of resources and staffing to start and scale ecosystem work in your communities.  Given the interest in entrepreneurship and small business support, MSA hopes this effort could further assist the state/regional coordinators in recognition and support of their own work and resource/capacity needs.

Finally, Diversity of Geography and Program Type.  We have pre-selected four primarily midwestern states given the Kauffman Foundation’s area of focused interest.  In addition, we have pre-selected Puerto Rico given our current work and potential to overlay important rebuilding tools like ecosystem building.  As such, we want our participating programs to be diverse geographically and we want a mix of and coordinating program structures to  further understand how this program can be more effectively shared across the broader Main Street network.

It may be helpful before submitting your application, please consider reviewing MSA’s current work and resources at:  https://www.mainstreet.org/howwecanhelp/resourcecenter/entrepreneurialecosystems 


Coordinator Application for Participation in Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural Main Streets Program

Eligibility: All state or regional Main Street America Coordinating Programs that have at least three Main Street communities with populations of 50,000 or less (as determined by the U.S Census) are eligible to apply.

Instructions for completing and submitting:

• You must answer all questions in the application and submit all supplemental materials before 11:59 p.m. CT on Sunday, February 12, 2023 . Incomplete applications will be disqualified. 

• You will receive an email confirmation once you have submitted your application to confirm it has been received. 

T-Mobile Hometown Grants is a $25 million, five-year initiative to support the people and organizations who help small towns across America thrive and grow. Hometown Grants are given every quarter to up to 25 small towns. Apply for funding to support a community project of your choice, like revitalizing or repurposing a historic structure, creating a downtown asset or destination, or improving a space where friends and neighbors gather. Projects that add to a sense of place or could lead to further investment are of particular interest. We look forward to learning more about your town and your project.

National Main Street Center