It’s rare to find an economic development handbook or guide that doesn’t proclaim “Focus on your strengths. ” It is the unofficial motto of economic development. But somehow these unique strengths look strikingly familiar from city to city, like a game of economic development Mad Libs; the word “clusters” with a choose-your-surname – bio, green, tech, etc. NLC’s new case study on Asheville, NC profiles a region trying to truly capitalize on its unique strengths.
Building off its abundant biodiversity, a history of homegrown remedies, and a tendency to embrace all things natural, the region is striving to help entrepreneurs create and manufacture natural products and supplements, food, and craft beverages. To do this, the region is trying to create an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” that delivers a more seamless and supportive environment for entrepreneurs.
While region is not without challenges — for example, talent and financing — it presents a number of lessons learned for regions across the country:
- Create incubators and other shared services that match an area’s strengths;
- Have the right staff and partners involved in programs and coalition groups;
- Do research on potential programs and visit other communities before implementing a new program at home;
- Build partnerships and connections with various entrepreneurial and small business service providers versus duplicating services.