A Heartland Forward report out today outlines six key factors that policymakers can influence to promote entrepreneurial growth in the middle of America.
- The organization is a Bentonville-based think tank focused on improving economic performance in the 20-state region in the center of the U.S.
Why it matters: A healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem can help sustain an area's economy by creating jobs, elevating standards of living and supporting other businesses.
State of play: In 2016, there were about 3.3 million workers at young firms (five years old or less) in the heartland, which accounted for 9% of all jobs in those states. Nonheartland states had 9.3 million workers at young firms.
- Zoom in: Capital investment in Arkansas startups is low compared to many other areas.
What they did: Researchers built the index on data about young companies, including several factors like populations with bachelor's degrees, households with computers, access to investment capital and government grants.
- As part of the report released today, the organization published an interactive calculator so state policymakers can see how adjustments in one area will impact their index.
Threat level: Texas is the only heartland state ranking in the top 25 of the entrepreneurial capacity index. It's No. 14.
- 16 of the lowest 20 positions on the index are heartland states.
- Arkansas, known for entrepreneurs like Sam Walton, John W. Tyson and J.B. Hunt, ranked No. 46 on the list.
What they found: Researchers point out steps state policymakers can take to boost entrepreneurship.
- Fund entrepreneurial support organizations, such as chambers of commerce or business networks that help build relationships and collaboration.
- Earmark state-level funding for investment in young firms.
- Improve access to high-speed internet, which helps provide opportunities for remote work and learning.
- Invest in higher education since there is a direct correlation to the percentage of the population with a bachelor's degree or higher with entrepreneurship.
- Teach entrepreneurial thinking in K–12 schools to perpetuate economic growth and provide underprivileged populations education that may lead to business ownership.
- Tap into initiatives like the Community Growth Program and Toolkit that help stimulate entrepreneurial thinking on a micro level.
What they're saying: Liz Hubing with Iowa City Area Development Group hasn't yet seen the report or interactive calculator but tells Axios it will be a welcome resource.
- Having data that show her fellow competitive Iowans how the state can advance will be a valued resource, she says.
What to watch: Researchers at Heartland Forward tell Axios they plan to publish a similar entrepreneurial index for a city-by-city level in early 2022.
Editor’s note: The graphic above has been corrected to reflect the accurate state abbreviations for Kansas ("KS") and Missouri ("MO").
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