The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) Announces Four Rural Communities Selected to Receive Fully-Funded Technical Assistance through the Rural Innovation Initiative

Joe Denoyer - September 13, 2021 8:41 am


Today, the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI), a national nonprofit advancing inclusive rural prosperity through digital economy ecosystems that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation, announced the four rural communities selected to receive fully-funded participation in its upcoming Rural Innovation Initiative (the Initiative) cohorts.

With support from Siegel Family Endowment, these communities will continue their efforts to build inclusive digital economies that support and serve their local Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Latinx, and people of color populations. This opportunity is valued at $30,000 per community and will support the work being done by: Chambers County, Alabama; Sierra Vista, Arizona; Paso Robles, California; and Liberal, Kansas.

Each community we have selected brings its own unique set of assets, cross-sector partnerships, and diverse leadership to the table,” said Leah Taylor, Head of Digital Economic Development at Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), sister organization to CORI. “Our team is excited to collaborate with each of them to build digital economy strategies that create conditions where community members of color are active drivers and participants in home-grown digital jobs and startups.”

Rural America has tremendous untapped talent and potential waiting to be unlocked through the growth of its entrepreneurial and digital ecosystem,” said Katy Knight, Executive Director of Siegel Family Endowment. “We’re proud to partner with CORI and RISI on the Rural Innovation Initiative to support these four communities as they ensure their residents have the tools, skills, and opportunity to engage meaningfully in our rapidly evolving society.”

Beginning this fall and continuing through the winter and spring of 2022, CORI and RISI will work closely with local leaders to carry out the technical assistance effort through its Rural Innovation Initiative. The lead organizations in each community are:


  • In Sierra Vista and Cochise County, Arizona: the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation
  • In Chambers County, Alabama: the Chambers County Development Authority
  • In Liberal and Seward County, Kansas: the Seward County Development Corporation
  • In Paso Robles, California: the City of Paso Robles and the Hispanic Business Association

“Liberal, Seward County is a community we are so thrilled to partner with through the Rural Innovation Initiative. What impressed us most about the community is the strong and diverse leadership who are driving this effort who are deeply committed to building a better future for their community, including representation from Seward County Development Corporation, Seward County Community College, Southwest Medical Center, and even a local remote tech worker. Their combined passion and expertise are an unstoppable combination. We look forward to working with these leaders to develop an inclusive digital economy in Seward County that will produce more tech jobs and startups in the community for the benefit of all,” said Taylor

CORI received interest from more than 40 rural communities from across the country before conducting interviews and making their selection. During the selection process, preference was given to communities whose populations are no more than 60% white non-Hispanic. Selected communities are between 5,000-50,000 in population and not suburbs of urban areas, have fiber internet in the downtown area or broadband servicing at least 75% of the population, and have a postsecondary institution in the region.

CORI and Siegel Family Endowment first began working together in 2017, when the foundation made a commitment to support CORI’s K-12 curriculum implementation and a technology startup accelerator in Springfield, Vermont. The funding relationship between CORI and Siegel Family Endowment was renewed in 2019 to advance a pilot program developed in partnership with the Economic Development Administration. This work expanded CORI’s footprint to more than a dozen rural communities across the country, built on the strategies that were developed during the Springfield pilot program. Further support from Siegel Family Endowment in 2020 has allowed CORI to expand its work and provide more services to this growing community of rural communities.


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