A new partnership between the Fort Wayne-based Northeast Indiana Innovation Center and Whitley County Chamber of Commerce could serve as a regional model for empowering women entrepreneurs and rural innovation. NIIC Chief Executive Officer Karl LaPan tells Inside INdiana Business the Enterprising Communities initiative will focus on networks, capital, talent and workspace with very specific targets. “In rural Indiana especially, there’s not enough startup activity, there’s not enough women startups,” said LaPan. “We really want to plant the seed to make that happen.”
In a Studio(i) interview, LaPan said the Whitley County partnership will serve as a pilot for what could be a much bigger regional initiative.
LaPan says it is well documented that new firm formation rates have been declining for decades, particularly in rural America, and the Enterprising Communities initiative can be a catalyst to create more place-based entrepreneurship opportunities throughout northeast Indiana.
The initiative will be powered by the NIIC and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center, a resource center and business accelerator for women and underserved entrepreneurs in northeast Indiana. WEOC services include business growth coaching, training and entrepreneurial education.
The NIIC is a nonprofit business and innovation incubator that launched in 1999 and has been recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as one of the top four under-the-radar incubators in the country.