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Member News: C.C. Eship / NACCE Journal Fall/Winter 2007

Entrepreneurs in Action! Connecting Learning with the Framework of the Learner

Thursday, January 14, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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By R. Wilburn Clouse, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University, TN

In the spring of the Community College Entrepreneur, we introduced the concepts related to Learning in Action! In the second article we described our program entitled Entrepreneurs in Action! (EIA), which is a problem-based case curriculum and a part of the total process of Learning in Actions! In this third article we present a short description of one of the most popular cases in the EIA program--The Santa Fe Effect--named after the entrepreneurial spirit that permeates the small town of Santa Fe, New Mexico.


All across America, small towns are facing a similar plight–the gradual decline of their downtown area. Shopping centers, industrial parks, interstate highways and changing demographics have changed the way we live in America, leaving the small town or, in some cases, the suburban area to drift from the main stream of American life. Today, businesses are moving out of central areas as more and more people elect to go "where the shoppers are,” generally to the larger highways that bypass the small towns. In addition, large stores, the so-called "big box” (i.e. Home Depot, Wal-Mart) retail operations, tend to locate in these outlying areas to take advantage of the increased flow of customers. This traffic encourages the growth of specialty retail stores, as well as hospitality and industrial development all outside of the "old town square concept.”

Where do these trends leave the small town? Once the cycle has begun, it seems difficult to arrest. Usually, older buildings are left to crumble and decay, with the only holdouts often being the city offices, a few professional buildings, and a few Mom & Pop stores.

Learning Vignette

This is a case about Small Town, USA and has been used to study several small towns, including Athens, TN; Madison, TN; Florence, SC; Paducah, KY; Maryville, TN and selected other small cities or suburbs of larger cities. The opportunities are all the same. The following is a brief introduction to the case. (Space in this column does not permit listing the entire case, thus this is just a beginning for the case).


Dr. Tim Smith, Professor of Business, has made an assignment in his Business Communications class to investigate the downtown area of Small Town, USA, and to develop a strategy to revitalize the downtown area. Five students, including Mark Davenport, Jeff Goodwill, Robert Jackson, Sue Williamson and Jackie Robinson, obtained a digital camera from the Resource Center and set out to film the downtown area. Through the eyes of the camera, the students saw a visual description of Small Town, USA. The camera first was used to videotape some of the famous streets that run through the city and to film some of the unique buildings and other places of historical interest. Using the camera, the students videotaped the remaining part of the city of interest to the case and then analyzed the situation and developed a plan for new business start-ups and redevelopment of the "Old City.”

The Challenge

1. What do you think?
2. What solutions would you recommend if you were a member of this student team?
3. What business ventures could be developed from this case?

After raising these questions, the students are free to begin deliberations on possible solutions to the case.

Guiding Questions

1. What types of political problems do you expect?

2. What groups contribute toward community development? How?

3. What other communities have similar issues and how have they addressed them?

4. What makes this town unique?

5. What external issues can arise from development?

6. What new startups are best suited for this area?

Core Concepts

1. Demographics of small towns

2. Social factors affecting small town exodus

3. Arts and cultural cohesiveness

4. Laws and regulations

Learning Objectives

1. Role of government and law in establishing new business

2. Business organizations

3. Social resistance to change

4. Appreciation of town history

In this case, students develop a comprehensive plan to redevelop the small town with emphasis on creating the entrepreneurial spirit as the vehicle to rejuvenate the small town. A formal document is developed and presented to the local Chamber of Commerce or City Council. Students learn cross-disciplinary concepts related to social, political, economic, legal, demographics, as well as see opportunities to start new business ventures in areas of great need.

This case as well as other cases are presented on The Forum for Entrepreneurship Education Web site, and support is available from Dr. R. Wilburn Clouse,, 615-322-8059. We are interested in working with other faculty members from the community college environment to help develop and host other cases of interest to community colleges.

This work is part of the Forum for Entrepreneurship Education at Vanderbilt University and was supported in part by The Coleman Foundation Inc. - Grant number 4446-- Entrepreneurs in Action!, and The National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0091632 and other related funds. (Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.)

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