Rural Opportunity Initiative

The Rural Opportunity Initiative (ROI) is a strategy to unify and strengthen existing business development resources to build rural prosperity through capacity-building grants. The initiative places value on entrepreneurship-based economic development, which emphasizes the creation and support of entrepreneurs and small businesses. This is not a new layer, and it is not operating in competition with existing initiatives. Because of this, applicants are prioritized based on: their ability to demonstrate broad commitment and meaningful support from existing local economic development and small business support organizations, and their ability to build the capacity of existing local economic development and small business support organizations, as well as, grow their collective ongoing efforts to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

This is often defined as the array of services that support business development. It also is used to describe a larger set of factors that interact to create an environment that favors (or does not favor) development of entrepreurs and small businesses. These factors are commonly referred to as the Five Cs: Culture, Climate, Capacity, Connectivity, and Capital.

Goals and Objectives

The overarching goal is to position rural communities for success as they strengthen entrepreneurship-based economic development in their communities.

Objectives to meet goals include:

  • building longevity through strengthened partnerships;
  • connecting local resources to one another and to a statewide network;
  • proactively ensuring equitable participation for entrepreneurs and service providers of all backgrounds and demographics; and
  • increasing entrepreneurism by elevating and making existing resources more accessible, and by filling gaps in local resources through available statewide resource partners.

Eligibility Requirements

  1. This is a fund to support collaborative work. Applicants must be applying on behalf of three or more total partners (including the applicant).
  2. Groups must then identify a "Lead Agency" to serve as the applicant. Applicants are responsible for receiving and managing funding, if selected.
  3. The proposed Lead Agency must be based in a geographic area with a population of 30,000 or less and proposed activities must benefit residents of a geographic area with a population of 30,000 or less.
  4. In addition to working collaboratively (or having a plan to work collaboratively), eligible applicants must be focused on improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem in support of entrepreneurs and small businesses.
  5. Please read ROI's Overview of Categories PDF to learn more about allowable expenses, sample projects, and characteristics of each category.

Application Process

What application form needs to be completed?



Funding available for the 2017-2019 biennium.