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 The University of Tennessee | Institute of Agriculture

Tennessee Rural Economic Development

Creating a Rural Entrepreneurial System in Tennessee - CREST

Trend Report Small Business Seminars
December 2011
A new TREND publication promoting economic development through a community of support for small business
Amanda Mathenia, Dr. Michael Wilcox, Creig Kimbro, and Dr. Alan Barefield

Trend Report "Aligning Entrepreneurship Resources in the Rural South"
Alison Davis and Michael Wilcox
Presentation at the Tennessee Municipal League's 72nd Annual Conference June 13, 2011 Murfreesboro Convention Center Murfreesboro, TN

Trend ReportBucking the TREND
Article appearing in the Ag Econogram, Fall 2010


Several Tennessee Communities are looking to grow - by creating more jobs and encouraging small business ventures. UT Extension is one of several organizations working in a rural economic development program called CREST.

Trend ReportAlthough there is now a great deal of experience across the country, with many success stories to draw upon, entrepreneurship development is an elusive concept for many community leaders who have traditionally relied upon recruitment as their primary economic development strategy.  In fact, for most rural communities, the encouragement and support of entrepreneurship is the best (and for some the only realistic) economic development strategy.

Purpose of CREST:  To assist targeted rural communities in Tennessee in transforming their local economies through the development of key components required for entrepreneurship and small business development. 

The CREST program:

  • Assists the community in understanding the impact and importance of small business development to the long term sustainable development of their local economies and identify components that should be in place in the community to support small business development and entrepreneurship.
  • Helps the community develop an effective organization that will focus on small business and entrepreneurship development in the community.
  • Assists the community in an asset-based strategic planning process that identifies the existing ESBD assets and weaknesses in the community.
  • Helps the community develop a strategic plan to address small business development opportunities and needs, and which identifies projects that can be undertaken to build community capacity for small business development.
  • Works with the community to prioritize potential projects, and choose a project that builds upon local and regional assets and that will be implemented over a one year period.

CREST is comprised of eight modules and includes distance learning and intensive technical assistance from a broad coalition of providers. The first two modules introduce the importance of and techniques used by communities to promote entrepreneurship. The remaining six modules provide the core foundation for creating a rural entrepreneurial system in Tennessee.

Your New Jobs May Be Homegrown
Creating Entrepreneurial Communities
Community Statistics
Asset Mapping *worksheets *Guide *Workshop
Strategic Planning
Creating Buy-in and Implementing Projects Locally
Best Practices for Entrepreneurial Communities
Survey and Evaluation Methods for ESBD

* Please note that there are several short intervals of low quality audio for this session

For more information please contact

Michael D. Wilcox, Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Agricultural Economics
University of Tennessee
314B Morgan Hall
2621 Morgan Circle
Knoxville, TN 37996
tel: (865) 974 - 7410
fax: (865) 974 - 9492

Resources and Articles

Small Businesses profit from free advice
Reuters, Deborah L. Cohen, May 10, 2010

Getting Your Community Ready for Entrepreneurship Development
Even before the current recession we have been reading and hearing a lot about entrepreneurs. And by all accounts, they may be the most important ingredient for a sustainable economy into the future. Yet, unlike a big manufacturer that comes calling seeking incentives to locate in our community, they are hard to identify ... and their needs are a challenge to understand, much less meet. If a community is going to make entrepreneurship development a part of its economic development portfolio, how do they go about it? Are there some proven approaches and best practices that will help communities to be successful at welcoming and supporting entrepreneurs? In short, yes!
Deb Markley and Greg Clary, April 2010
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Watch Webinar

Getting Your Community Ready for Entrepreneurship Development (part 2)
In this follow-up to April's webinar Sharon Gulick of University of Missouri Extension introduces you to two communities that are taking their economic development into their own hands. The projects have taken very different approaches. The presenters discuss the challenges they faced, how they built their teams, developed their plans and the successes that they've had. These are two very dynamic projects that have gotten national attention for their unique strategies and community engagement styles.
May 2010
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