Larger employers usually take the headlines when it comes to economic development. The New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) serves large employers and is also focusing on entrepreneurship as an economic growth strategy. Through a partnership with Plaka and Associates, the EDC recently studied entrepreneurship in Henry County and is building on the area’s entrepreneurial efforts.
Plaka and Associates focused their study on Entrepreneurship-Led Economic Development (ELED). ELED is a strategy designed to support business creation and accelerate the growth of existing businesses, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities in various industries.
“Fundamentally, expanding entrepreneurial opportunity leads to more jobs, higher incomes, greater productivity, wealthier communities, lower inequality, and less poverty,” the study notes.
The report refers to Henry County as “an Entrepreneurial Community,” citing efforts by the EDC, New Castle Main Street, and other community partners. The Enterprise Loan Fund, annual Business Builders program, and educational resources provide a solid foundation for continued enhancements to Henry County’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The study adds: “Henry County is increasingly raising awareness and building the capacity to redefine and transform itself into an entrepreneurial brand.”
The data indicates that nationally, regionally, and locally, young firms under five years old are responsible for nearly all net new jobs created. In individual interviews with targeted entrepreneurship and resource providers, the study focused on Henry County found key themes including:
-There are opportunities to develop a pipeline of entrepreneurs by working with the K-12 school systems.
-People attempting to start businesses don’t know about resources available to them.
-Many entrepreneurs don’t know how to market and use the digital infrastructure effectively.
Plaka and Associates also conducted a survey of community members, with more than 60 percent of the respondents identifying as small business owners. Most respondents had been in business less than 10 years. Respondents listed quality childcare, access to mentors, and transportation as key barriers to launching and scaling their businesses. Among respondents, there was a high degree of enthusiasm and a hunger for entrepreneurship support.
The five recommendations Plaka and Associates made for Henry County are:
1. Amplify Storytelling- By sharing positive messages about businesses that start and grow successfully, Henry County can encourage others to follow their entrepreneurial dreams.
2. Evaluate Community Impact Funding Models- Including key philanthropic organizations such as the Community Foundation can lead to high-impact momentum for potential entrepreneurs.
3. Designate a Liaison for Entrepreneurs- While there are many resources available, there is a need for a single point person. By simplifying access to resources, entrepreneurs can easily find support for new business creation.
4. Support Digital Connectivity- Residents need access to rapid, reliable internet connectivity to access opportunities for small business growth.
5. Launch a Hub of Knowledge and Digital Tools- By building a hub using a local resource like the New Castle-Henry County Public Library, the community can help entrepreneurs access the tools they need to start their businesses.
“Creating an environment that supports small business growth and new business start-ups is absolutely vital to our community’s prosperity,” noted Corey Murphy, President of the New Castle Henry County Economic Development Corporation. “We look forward to implementing this plan and fostering an entrepreneurial environment here in Henry County.”