Haywood County was the first county to receive the Certified Entrepreneurial Community designation in the United States. A Certified Entrepreneurial Community (CEC) is an economic development strategy—a program that helps communities (towns, areas, and counties) become entrepreneur ready. That means the overall business climate, policies, regulations, and opportunities to learn and grow are simple to find and available. It also means there’s a positive, enthusiastic attitude that permeates the culture. Haywood County has aligned its community from the ground up to help entrepreneurs start and succeed in business. A Certified Entrepreneurial Community is one of economic opportunity for entrepreneurs. Leaders in business, economic development and education work together to drive innovation, encourage and support entrepreneurship while also improving the business climate for existing companies.
The idea for CEC came from Advantage West economic development best practices in the early 2000s. Even then the group realized the future of this region must include entrepreneurs and realized that entrepreneurship is best nurtured on a local grass roots level and effort to get local leadership involved, to create local teams that welcome and work with entrepreneurs.
The certification guarantees that everything’s in place; that resources are easy to find and the people behind them are helpful, friendly, and eager to help. There were five steps in the process. They included:
- assuring that the community is committed to the process
- assessing the community’s current entrepreneurial landscape
- creating a comprehensive strategy for entrepreneurial growth
- marshaling the community’s entrepreneurial resources
- identifying and nurturing the community’s most promising entrepreneurial talents
Key points of being a certified entrepreneurial community include:
- Asset mapping and developing a strategy for growth
- Improving access to capital for entrepreneurs
- Providing a superior support system
“These ancient mountains captivate people, drawing them to relocate here. Entrepreneurs are no exception; many find they really can have it all here in western North Carolina.” Entrepreneurs living in CEC communities benefit from a supportive leadership team along with great networking in a community of peers. – www.awcec.com