In upstate New York, a handful of community members meet each Tuesday in the upstairs conference room at the Wyoming County Business Center, dedicated to the same goal: to launch their own businesses.
Aspiring entrepreneurs from diverse walks of life completed the 10-week Kauffman FastTrac program ready to refine and launch their businesses. Delivered by seasoned program facilitators at the Business Center, the FastTrac program focuses on preparing early-stage entrepreneurs like these to get their business off the ground.
"We're a rural county. Why not start those successful businesses, employ people, give them jobs, a future, right here?" Jeff Fitch, one of the Wyoming County FastTrac facilitators, said. "Why drive to the cities? Let's build up our own economy in this rural environment. We have a lot of good people that know how to work. They just need some knowledge and some tools."
Limited infrastructure, poor internet access, and a smaller hiring pool are just a few of the barriers that entrepreneurs in rural America face. As a county historically focused on agriculture, engaging the community in the conversation of entrepreneurship has been challenging. But the accepted reality that hundreds of manufacturing jobs likely aren’t going to appear means that communities have to get creative – and for places like Wyoming County, that means supporting entrepreneurship. With more than 130 business starts, the Business Center and the FastTrac program are able to demonstrate to area residents the opportunity to achieve economic empowerment that comes through entrepreneurship.
"We only have about 38,000 people here and so for us it was a logical economic development strategy to try to help and develop our own entrepreneurs here and kind of create your own jobs and create your own wealth," Jim Piece, President of the Business Center, said. "For us, it's a very effective program."
"You look at your strengths and what do you have?" Pierce said. "We have outstanding resources here. We have hard-working people. We have people that are driven and we had really a high level of entrepreneurial spirit here. The problem had always been, how do you get that entrepreneurial spirit hooked up with the resources to get those things moving forward?"
After participating in the FastTrac program, Brianne Blaszak, an area health and physical education teacher, is hoping to launch her outdoor recreation business. From writing a business plan to projecting profits, she now hopes to launch her business in the next 3–6 months.
"I am hoping that the doors open, it's successful, and the community, as a whole, embraces it," Blasak said. "The community I live in has told me there is a need for this business, for sure. There's nothing like it within 50 miles."
With more than seven years of providing the FastTrac program, the Business Center and the community continues to grow and thrive, launching new businesses each year.
"Those businesses mean jobs, they mean payroll, they mean offering products and services that are needed or wanted out in the marketplace," Fitch, the FastTrac facilitator, said. "We have a saying in Wyoming County: 'we have more cows than people.' These small businesses are really one of the things that are attracting people within Wyoming County to do business locally."
Kauffman FastTrac seeks to provide education, resources, and tools to aspiring entrepreneurs around the country. Through facilitated classes in communities around the country or through an online portal, learners have access to the education they need to help make their dreams a reality. Learn more at fasttrac.org.
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