Appalachian Regional Commission Unveils New Research and Resources to Support Regional Entrepreneurship

Today, the Appalachian Regional Commission released Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia, a suite of new research reports and resources to support entrepreneurial development in Appalachia. The research includes three reports which outline core elements necessary for a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, analyze community case studies to provide insight into the unique challenges faced by communities in Appalachia, and offer recommendations to support future economic development across the Region. A companion website documents and compares entrepreneurial activity in each of Appalachia’s 420 counties, and includes a working inventory of support services available to entrepreneurs across the Region.

“Entrepreneurs diversify local economies and help make communities more resilient and dynamic. This is why fostering entrepreneurial growth is one of ARC’s priorities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas. “There is no good reason why the next world-changing entrepreneur can’t come from Appalachia. These resources can help make that happen.”

Using both quantitative and qualitative analysis at macro and micro levels, the first report in the research series identifies seven core elements necessary for a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. These elements include:
Market Access
Business Assistance
Specialized Infrastructure and Facilities
Community Culture
Regulatory/Government Support
The second report compares national, regional, and community level data about startups, high growth companies, and stage two companies (10–99 employees) to measure entrepreneurial dynamism. The research notes that 26.6 percent of companies in Appalachia are start-ups, compared to 30.7 percent in the rest of the country. In addition, while there are marginally more high-growth companies in Appalachia in comparison to the rest of the country (1.7 percent in Appalachia in comparison to 1.5 percent in the country), there are slightly fewer Stage 2 companies in the region in comparison to the rest of the country (15.3 percent in Appalachian compared to 15.6 percent in the country). The report also compares similar measures to offer in depth case studies of entrepreneurial dynamism in eight Appalachian communities, including:
Asheville, North Carolina
Athens, Ohio
Cattaraugus County, New York
Chattanooga, Tennessee
New River Gorge/Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia
The Shoals, Alabama
Garrett County, Maryland
Southwest Virginia
The third research report offers concrete recommendations for how states and communities can foster entrepreneurial ecosystem development across the Region, including integrating entrepreneurial development with other federal, local, and regional activities.

The companion website,, includes comparative county, state, region, and national data on startups, high growth companies, and stage 2 companies to measure entrepreneurial dynamism in each of the Region’s 420 counties. The website also features a searchable inventory of over 1,000 technical support providers and community based resources available to Appalachian entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia was conducted in partnership with EntreWorks Consulting, the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, and the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship. Today’s announcement was made at the Olean Business Development Corp in New York’s Cattaraugus County, one of the community case studies profiled in the research.

Investing in entrepreneurial and business development strategies that strengthen Appalachia’s economy is one of ARC’s five investment goals as outlined in the Commission’s current Strategic Plan. In FY 2017, ARC invested over $37 million in entrepreneurial-related activities which helped create or retain over 4,500 jobs and created or improved more than 3,000 businesses across the Region.