New Extension program supports rural entrepreneurship

Rural entrepreneurship in Wisconsin and Minnesota will get a boost from a newly created program in the Extension programs at the state’s land grant universities.

The rural entrepreneurship program was announced this week by University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension Dean & Director Karl Martin and University of Minnesota Extension Dean Beverly Durgan. Two farm credit associations – Compeer Financial and AgCountry Farm Credit Services – joined together to make contributions totaling $400,000 across four years to make the joint program possible.

Starting and growing a rural business is hard work. Typically, rural communities have fewer people and fewer resources to support entrepreneurial opportunities. This program allows Extension to support rural economies by developing rural business owners who are tapping into unique local opportunities and underused assets in their areas.

The new program will build upon research and outreach capabilities of the Extensions. The deans noted their states have many features in common, including an already-vibrant foundation of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs create stable jobs for themselves and others; they contribute to an overall sense of place and quality of life in rural settings. The program will create and build linkages in entrepreneurial networks, improve the availability and use of resources to entrepreneurs, create opportunities for entrepreneurs, and develop the skills-sets necessary for success in the modern rural economy.

“Communities succeed when ideas for businesses can grow into thriving realities. This funding will help the land-grant universities bring our strengths to the table to help,” said Martin. “This new outreach is only the beginning, and we plan to expand offerings and service.”

“There’s great energy around starting new businesses in our states, but in rural locations there are unique challenges, too, ranging from financing to broadband and childcare,” said Durgan.

Both Martin and Durgan lauded the donors, noting Compeer’s and AgCountry’s contributions reflect their long-held commitment to rural Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“As a cooperative serving and supporting rural communities, we see the value entrepreneurs bring to rural economies,” said John Monson, Chief Mission and Marketing Officer at Compeer Financial. “This program will champion those individuals who are bringing innovative ideas to rural America.”

“We know there is a lot of potential for additional rural entrepreneurs to step up when the right resources are available,” said Troy Andreasen, Chief Marketplace Officer at AgCountry. “This is an investment in the future vitality of rural communities across our great states.”

The joint program may include hiring of new staff in both Big Ten institutions, as well as formation of an advisory group to help guide its efforts. The program builds upon the capacity of the Center for Community Vitality at University of Minnesota Extension and the Community Economic Development program at UW-Madison Extension.

For media inquiries to UW-Madison Extension, contact Matthew Call, 608-262-7495 | matthew.call@wisc.edu

For more on UW-Madison Extension, visit extension.wisc.edu

 For more on University of Minnesota Extension, visit extension.umn.edu

 For more on Compeer Financial, visit compeer.com

 For more on AgCountry, visit agcountry.com