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Podcast Episode # 127: Entrepreneurship-Led Economic Development: A Conversation with Rob Williams of SourceLink

Lessons on turning ideas into impact.

Dane Carlson
Dane Carlson
2 min read
Podcast Episode # 127: Entrepreneurship-Led Economic Development: A Conversation with Rob Williams of SourceLink

Table of Contents

In this episode of the Econ Dev Show Podcast, Dane Carlson interviews Rob Williams, director of SourceLink, a not-for-profit organization that collaborates with economic development agencies to promote entrepreneurial-led economic growth.

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Rob details SourceLink's origins in 2003 in Kansas City, Missouri, where it began as an initiative to better connect local entrepreneurs to resources, evolving into a significant player in fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems across the U.S. He discusses the early challenges of advocating for entrepreneurship in economic development, the importance of tailored community strategies, and practical steps communities can take to engage and support local entrepreneurs.

Rob emphasized the evolving understanding and importance of entrepreneurship in economic development, sharing insights from his extensive experience and the impact of SourceLink's work in various communities.

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Actionable Tactics from the Episode

  1. Understand the Community: Start by understanding your local assets and the specific needs of the community. This involves engaging with local entrepreneurs to identify their challenges and how they can contribute to the community's development.
  2. Leverage and Expand Networks: Utilize existing networks to find and connect with local entrepreneurs. This could include attending local events, utilizing local business directories, or leveraging contacts within the community to identify key stakeholders.
  3. Facilitate Connections: Make targeted introductions between entrepreneurs and local resources such as Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), SCORE, women’s business centers, or local universities and colleges. Provide warm introductions to specific contacts within these organizations rather than general referrals.
  4. Gather and Use Feedback: Regularly collect feedback from entrepreneurs about the barriers they face and the support they need. This feedback can inform the development of targeted programs and interventions to support local business growth.
  5. Build and Support a Resource Network: Work on building or improving a comprehensive network of support for entrepreneurs, including advisory services, funding opportunities, and mentorship programs. This network should aim to address the specific gaps identified through feedback from local entrepreneurs.
  6. Promote Success Stories: Highlight successful local startups and entrepreneurs to inspire others and enhance the entrepreneurial culture in the community. This can help normalize entrepreneurship and innovation as viable paths for economic development.
  7. Set Clear Goals and Metrics: Establish clear, measurable goals for engaging with and supporting entrepreneurs. For instance, set a target number of entrepreneurs to meet within a certain period and track progress towards these goals. Use these metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the initiatives and make necessary adjustments.
  8. Foster an Inclusive Approach: Ensure that economic development initiatives are inclusive, supporting a diverse range of businesses from micro-enterprises to high-growth startups, and consider the unique characteristics and needs of each segment.
  9. Collaborate and Build Partnerships: Collaborate with local organizations, educational institutions, and other stakeholders to build a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem. Regular meetings and collaborations can enhance the support network available to entrepreneurs.
  10. Focus on Practical Support: Beyond networking and introductions, work on providing tangible support to entrepreneurs, such as helping them access market research, navigate local regulations, or find physical spaces for their businesses.
The Econ Dev Show is made possible by our Econ Dev Pro members (join now) and sponsors: EDOiQ, ResearchFDI, The PACE Group, and SiteHunt. (Become a sponsor.)

Dane Carlson Twitter

Founder/Host of Econ Dev Show. Also: Sitehunt CEO and economic development consultant in Greater Houston, Texas.

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