NetWork Kansas Aims to Plug the Urban-Rural Divide

Radically Rural Track: Entrepreneurship

SESSION 3 (Sept. 23, 10 a.m.-11:34 a.m.)

Creating Capital Access in Rural Communities – Lessons from NetWork Kansas

A nationwide pandemic, vaccines, elections and racial unrest have exposed the broad political and societal divides between urban centers and rural places. This has occurred against a backdrop of city residents finding they can work from anywhere, relocating in greater numbers to regions with smaller populations.

  What does all this mean to entrepreneurship? NetWork Kansas could be at the forefront of that discovery.

  As one of America’s longest-running rural entrepreneurial ecosystems, NetWork Kansas offers a model for collaboration on rural economic development. The now-statewide network of nonprofit business-building resources has proven to be a model for bridging the rural-urban gap in some cases. 

  President and CEO Steve Radley considers the organization to be a powerful system for assets and ideas.

  “With rural start-ups contributing to a large portion of rural jobs,” he says, “we know that traditional economic systems must be shaped carefully to fit and support these communities.”

  The organization provides a wide range of business resources for the remote urban transplant and the rural entrepreneur alike. 

  Radley says he will dive into how his organization has successfully attracted business capital in rural communities throughout Kansas. 

  Joined by Imagene Harris, director of strategic partnerships and impact investment, Radley will attempt to convey to attendees how this model can be replicated in other places to support resilient and diverse local economies.

  Harris, who dons many hats for NetWork Kansas, mainly oversees the organization’s statewide funding programs. With experience working in compliance for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, she joined Radley’s team in 2013.

“Truly, this organization is not only a valuable resource to Kansas businesses and entrepreneurs,” she says, “it is also a mechanism and tool for enhancing the quality of life in Kansas.”

Together, Harris and Radley will break down the methods behind the network’s lean, high-impact capacity to process venture financing within its Entrepreneurial Communities Program. They will offer other capital access strategies along the way.

The two speakers will talk about how this model is highly effective in providing capital to rural entrepreneurs, especially in the wake of the pandemic. 

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