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Lessons Learned About Igniting Local Economies through Entrepreneurship

Posted By Karen-Michelle Mirko, Thursday, April 3, 2014

Part 4 in a series of blogs about how an entrepreneurial mindset, small business growth and technology are fueling a local economy in North Carolina. Click here to see video.


“A lot of people look at a community and they will look at the big businesses and try to get those big jobs in there. We call that the Buffalo Hunt. People call them the economic engine of the economy. Well if those big businesses are the economic engine of the community, then small businesses are the rest of the car. Small businesses create the personality of the community. It is that personality that draws those big businesses in.”

– George Millsaps, state director of North Carolina’s Small Business Center Network



Community colleges across the country are tapping the power of entrepreneurship to reinvigorate their local economies. Sparks are igniting at all corners of the campus and in the cloud. Community college presidents are not only encouraging entrepreneurship in their students and local small businesses, but acting like entrepreneurs. Small business centers help communities “grow their own jobs” by helping entrepreneurs launch and small businesses grow via online courses. The rise in the number of women-owned businesses and the convenience of technology fuels small business growth. With all of these actions in motion, one economy is growing.


HP LIFE partnered with NACCE to propel and document this transformation in Hickory, NC via the work of Catawba Valley Community College. Watch this video to see how entrepreneurship and technology are fueling economic growth. Read below for lessons learned and apply them to your community.


Start-ups and small business growth fuel an economic recovery.

“North Carolina’s economic system is continuing to evolve through the economic downturn…” says Dr. Garrett D. Hinshaw, President, Catawba Valley Community College. “It’s important for us to look at all opportunities for new business starts-ups, especially those that are innovative and scalable and that will create jobs. We need new businesses that will have a long-term positive impact on the ecosystem.”


Community colleges are an integral part of their local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“My role as a community college president is to make every effort to inspire entrepreneurship and make sure it’s a priority for all of our programs here at Catawba Valley Community College,” Dr. Hinshaw adds. “Part of that is bringing in innovative programs like HP LIFE e-Learning that can help students learn business and IT skills and turn their business ideas into realities.


Community college presidents need to think like an entrepreneur, set their affordable loss and take calculated risks.

“As a leader in higher education,” Dr. Hinshaw states, “we always have to think differently in terms of how we do things, how we reach our constituents, how we ensure our citizens have the right skills and access to the resources they need. We have to be willing to take those risks and then work hard to make sure that our commitment and our focus remains on those.”​


Women-business owners are a critical part of small business growth.

“The number of female entrepreneurs in our community is growing, and they are making a big impact on the revitalization of our economy,” says Gary Muller, CVCC Business Programs Department Head. “They are involved in all segments of the business community.”



Mastery of technology is essential to small business success.

“Few businesses can survive today without technology and even fewer that can flourish without technology,” said Dr. Millsaps.


“Good IT skills and knowledge are critical to effectively manage and grow a business,” asserts Dr. Hinshaw. IT affects every part of a company from bringing products and services to market quickly to interacting with customers. HP LIFE e-Learning is just one example of the incredible role technology is playing in fueling learning, business and community development and economic growth.”



The convenience of online learning is highly appealing for entrepreneurs.

Counselors use online courses to give the entrepreneur a jump start before one-on-one counseling begins or to provide entrepreneurs needed knowledge between counseling sessions. They can learn at their own pace and on their own time.

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