I had the pleasure of spending last week in the beautiful town of Gimli, Manitoba (formerly known as New Iceland – a great story!). Why was I there? I was lucky enough to attend the Community Futures Conference for East Interlake.
Community Futures is a national organization that strengthens communities in the region through innovative business and community economic development support services. Community Futures East Interlake strives to be recognized as the premier source for business and community economic development support in a given region.
One of the core themes of Community Futures is its emphasis on the importance of rural. Community Futures strives to help entrepreneurs in rural areas. They truly care about rural. Many of the individual Community Futures organizations represent rural municipalities. Helping those rural municipalities prosper and adapt to the rapidly changing times is a top priority for Community Futures.
Community Futures helps rural entrepreneurs in a number of different areas. They provide resources and guidance so those entrepreneurs have the right resources to compete in their markets. They foster businesses in rural and smaller communities. They help to ensure those rural areas continue to sustain themselves. They help people in rural communities get access to the same resources as those living in a city, while still enjoying the lifestyle a rural community provides.
Since I work for a technology company, I was particularly interested to see how Community Futures approached digital technology and rural communities.
It’s a major component of keeping rural communities and businesses competitive, and Community Futures works hard to ensure entrepreneurs have access to and knowledge in tech.
Organizations need to view data as a resource, and securing that resource is of the utmost importance. Proper IT and cybersecurity can’t be overlooked either. While rural communities are geographically remote, the digital landscape is always connected to the rest of the world! That’s why even rural entrepreneurs need to make sure their systems are protecting citizen and stakeholder information from any “hackers” with ill intent.
Municipal websites are often the first impression when a visitor is doing research on a given community. With rapidly rising expectations for digital appearances, having an updated municipal website is essential. Even “tiny” items like updated and correct contact information are crucial.
As we continue to develop our digital economy, we’re seeing more and more “non-traditional” businesses open up in rural communities. In a way, it’s like we’re coming full-circle after rural communities have been dealing with “brain-drain” over the past few decades.
Remote workers, online services, and digital marketplaces are just a few examples of businesses popping up in rural areas.
The digital economy enables people to live in a rural area, with its associated lifestyle, while still running a fully functional and flourishing business. While I was at the conference, I attended a panel of business owners/recipients of Community Futures funding and guidance. They discussed how they were able to grow their businesses in a rural area, and highlighted some of the challenges they faced. Common themes were fast internet (or lack thereof), how to access business grants, and adequate mentorship.
Lastly, I wanted to extend my heartful appreciation to Community Futures East Interlake for putting on such a great conference. It was easy to see how much the organizers care about their communities.
It was also a wonderful experience to see so many of our platform users at the conference, and we want you to know we’ll support you in any way we can.
Thanks for reading!