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Member News: C.C. Eship / NACCE Journal Summer/Fall 2008

Entrepreneurship Education Drives Economic Development

Thursday, January 14, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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At a time when the national economy is of concern to everyone, the role entrepreneurship education at community colleges can play in economic development is well worth exploring. Though the specific economic challenges different regions across the country face vary sharply, it is clear from the experience of NACCE members that entrepreneurship education can be a key component to helping all types of communities build economic strength.

Let’s look at two communities with very contrasting economic challenges:

• New York’s Cayuga County is home of Cayuga Community College (CCC), located in the beautiful Finger Lakes region. "In our area, the manufacturing companies that were powerhouses a generation ago have either downsized or moved out completely,” says Daniel Larson, President of CCC. "Part of our challenge is that we have a very skilled workforce that needs to be retrained and retooled and needs to have the ability to do work that is commensurate with what they were doing previously.

"For many people this is their opportunity to look at career shifts and whether they may want to develop their own small business or be their own boss,” adds Larson. "That is not to say that manufacturing is dead, but it has changed tremendously. It’s no longer that dirty, hands-on environment; it’s much more automated and leaner.”

Larson says that with the help of several foundations that have deep roots in Cayuga County, the region is looking at how to help reinvent the area and build on its obvious assets. "For this part of central New York,” he says, "it’s certainly tourism, culture and the history that are associated with it, as well as the natural beauty and the New York state wineries.”

• Maryland’s Anne Arundel County, home of Anne Arundel Community College (AACC), is equidistant between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD, and is home of the state capital in Annapolis. Also in the county is Fort Meade, one of the country’s largest military bases. Fort Meade is growing even larger as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program. According to the county’s Web site, conservative estimates place the direct, indirect, and induced jobs being created in Anne Arundel County in conjunction with BRAC in the range of 9,000 to 14,000 jobs by 2011, with many being well-paid high-tech positions.

"The defense industry is an opportunity and a challenge,” says Martha Smith, President of AACC. "Some of the jobs that are coming here will bring people with them but others won’t, so we’re gearing up now to know what skills people will need to take on those positions. We are also the backbone of the bioscience corridor between DC and Baltimore, and we are continually being asked to train more and more workers in those areas.”

Different Needs; Same Solution

"Despite having economies that are dramatically different, both these communities can benefit from having strong entrepreneurship education at the community college level,” says NACCE Executive Director Heather Van Sickle. "We see the same story with members all across the nation, from urban to rural areas. People increasingly understand why entrepreneurship education is important and why community colleges, with their strong community roots and focus, are in the best position to offer this service to their communities.”

When it comes to helping Anne Arundel County adjust to the BRAC influx of jobs and the demands of a growing bioscience industry, Smith says entrepreneurship education has a big role to play in both areas. "On the broadest dimension, a large part of entrepreneurship education is about developing the ability of individuals and organizations to be innovative and creative,” she says. "Unless we’re intentional and focused on helping students develop these skills across disciplines, we’ll lose what has made America great. We need to bring this skill set across the curriculum; you don’t have to major in Entrepreneurship Studies to help you develop your own sense of creativity and innovation.”

AACC’s Entrepreneurial Studies Institute (ESI), founded five years ago, continues to evolve in new directions. The ESI includes a Collegiate Entrepreneurs Club (, a student business incubator and a social entrepreneurship program. "We are also active in the community in the area of economic development,” says Smith. "We have a close working relationship with the county’s economic development corporation, and we’re on the boards of about seven chambers of commerce. We host an annual meeting of all the chamber CEOs, executive directors and board members to talk about the economic issues they’re facing and how we can help.”

New Tactics for a New Future

"Eighty percent of our alums live within 50 miles of the college,” says Larson. "For those graduates to have a knowledge of what it means to be involved in a small business and to take their own idea and evolve it will bode well for the innovation and creativity this region was known for 100 years ago and still in many ways continues to be known for,” says Larson.

To help drive entrepreneurship education throughout its curriculum, CCC has established the nation’s first endowed chair in Entrepreneurship at a community college. The college’s entrepreneurship offerings are closely linked to the region’s new Stardust Institute for Entrepreneurship. (See Community College Entrepreneur, Spring 2007 for details on the Stardust Institute.)

"America’s community colleges enroll more than 50 percent of all undergraduate students and for them to have good experience and skill sets with entrepreneurship will set things well in terms of potential for the future,” says Larson. "These are the people who are going to be the backbone of the workforce of the future.”

"As more and more community colleges in communities all across the country launch and then build entrepreneurship education programs, they further raise their profile as major economic resources for the communities they serve,” says Van Sickle. "Building this understanding both on campus and off is an important part of what we at NACCE hope to help our members achieve.”

Here are brief descriptions of economic development programs being undertaken by NACCE members across the country:

• The Lorain County Community College Foundation, in Elyria, OH, has created a unique Innovation Fund that provides pre-seed awards to businesses at the earliest stage of their development. The fund is a result of a landmark decision by the IRS that allows contributions to the fund to be fully tax-deductible. For more information, visit

• At the Minnesota State Community Technical College in Detroit Lakes, MN, the Business and Entrepreneurial Services (BES) has found many ways to tie with local efforts to grow the region’s economy. The BES advisory board includes city, county, regional, state, tribal and federal economic development officers. In the past six months the college has partnered with the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce in a number of areas. Provost Cristobal Valdez serves on both the BES and chamber boards as well as the regional board at West Central Initiative. The college hosted, and presented at the inaugural Economic Development Summit series. Additionally, the BES has been integral in assisting area economic development planning efforts including the City of Detroit Lakes. To date, the ED group for the city has committed to assisting entrepreneurship graduates in developing the theory and experience they garner at the college into actual business ventures and is planning fundraising efforts to begin an Angel Investor Network to support aspiring Entrepreneurship graduates. For more information, contact Cris Valdez at

• Miami Dade College (MDC) in Miami, FL, offers a College Credit Certificate in E-ship that allows high school students to "dual enroll” in the classes included in the certificate. The college’s Community Ed department is working with the West Kendall Business Association, a professional group of over 300 members made up primarily of small businesses, to identify and address their training needs. Also, this summer MDC offered a Free Minority Business Development Program for minority/woman owned small business in Miami. For more information, contact Gregory Gray at
• The Center for Enterprise at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, NE, is partnering with four economic development groups to deliver a series this fall to help entrepreneurs develop a plan for their business/expansion. The three-phase series will train local leaders in how to support and coach entrepreneurs, help entrepreneurs test the feasibility of their business ideas, and bring together the local leaders and the entrepreneurs from four communities via technology (Internet and ITV) to help the entrepreneurs move to the next step. Also, the Center is planning another project, in partnership with two economic development groups, that is intended to network high school students, college students, and business owners. Students who want to remain in the area can participate in a "career academy” that will provide them with education and training that will help them identify a career and provide them with much of the entrepreneurial knowledge they need should they want to one day own a business. Business owners will have an opportunity to plan for business succession and/or business expansion. Connections will be facilitated among students and business owners to help all participants reach their goals while helping the participating communities retain more of their students, an important aspect in economic development in this rural area. For more information, contact Cinch Munson at

• The Roanoke Economic Development Authority (EDA) has created an Entrepreneur District within the City of Roanoke, VA, to help create a stimulating and supportive climate for entrepreneurship by offering incentives and tools to support small business development. One of the incentives available is training; funds will be used for training with key partners including Virginia Tech University and Virginia Western Community College. Training includes the Virginia Tech Entrepreneur Boot Camp, entrepreneurial classes and seminars through Virginia Western, membership in the Roanoke President’s Council, and other programs approved by the EDA. For information, visit,


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