Katherine Roth, Executive Director, Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center
Katherine Roth is the executive director of the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center, which is co-located at the University of Jamestown. In her role she leads the development of partnerships, collaborates with regional economic development stakeholders to deliver business education programming, and provides business assistance to current and nascent entrepreneurs to support the creation and sustainability of small businesses in the nine North Dakota counties of Wells, Foster, Griggs, Stutsman, Barnes, Logan, LaMoure, McIntosh, and Dickey. Additionally, she provides grants administration for the USDA Rural Business Development grant that significantly sponsors the business development activities of the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center. Katherine earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Jamestown with majors in business administration, communication, Spanish, and German. She completed a Master of Business Administration at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater. In this article Katherine gives a brief overview of the NEW Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center, what programing the center offers, and what the future holds for this center that has a vision of becoming a premier catalyst for entrepreneur activity in their region.
On August 15, 2017, the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center opened its doors to the south central counties of Wells, Foster, Griggs, Stutsman, Barnes, Logan, LaMoure, McIntosh and Dickey in North Dakota as a new stakeholder in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem supporting the creation and sustainment of economically thriving rural communities and promoting the pursuit of rural innovation. Its mission is to assist entrepreneurs in facilitating and launching successful products and businesses by igniting the synergies of industry, community, the University of Jamestown, government and other entrepreneur centers statewide.
How was the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center formed?
The University of Jamestown, along with community members representing elected officials, economic development organizations, and civic and business leaders held strategic meetings to develop a plan to spur regional entrepreneurial activity in the early stage of a business’ development. These stakeholders believed that there was an imperative need for an organization that would foster a culture of entrepreneurship and support the creation of startup communities throughout the region. The University of Jamestown and the Jamestown Stutsman Development Corporation incorporated this newly founded organization in January, 2018 with the vision of it becoming a premier catalyst in the region for entrepreneur activity and success. The Jamestown Stutsman Development Corporation further committed $50,000 annually in funds over a period of three years to support the startup phase of the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center, which is a community business center. Additionally, the University of Jamestown graciously houses the community business center, equipment, supplies, and transportation to support its operations of business assistance and outreach.
Why the imperative of a regional entrepreneur center to serve the south central North Dakota counties of Wells, Foster, Griggs, Stutsman, Barnes, Logan, LaMoure, McIntosh, and Dickey?
The report titled North Dakota Census Office Population Projections of the State, Regions and Counties 2016 (presented as of January 19, 2016 from the North Dakota Department of Commerce – Census Office) identifies that the economic region six (6), which encompasses the nine south central counties of service for the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center, is projected to have an aggregate population decline leading into 2040. According to this state study, economic region six (6) is the only group of counties in North Dakota with a projected population loss. This signals a dire urgency of needed rural investment.
How does the U.S. Department of Agriculture play a role in Rural Development and in the formation of the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s mission directly addresses this type of projected population outcome in rural America with its rural investment goals. According to the federal agency’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, its first strategic goal is to assist rural communities in creating prosperity so that the communities are self-sustaining, repopulating, and economically thriving. The Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center responds to this strategic plan framework directly by establishing business education programming that targets the needs of the business community with an outlook of encouraging business growth and eventual inward migration to the region for future employment opportunities. Additionally, technical assistance is provided directly to both existing and nascent entrepreneurs to provide timely and relevant business support. The USDA’s Rural Development has supported the vision and mission of the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center with an initial grant fund of $63,415 to assist with providing business services in its first year of operation.
What does the business assistance programming entail?
The Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center unifies the human capital of industry, university, and the community through tailored business education programming offered to the region’s small businesses, nascent entrepreneurs, and innovators. Planned events that bring together the small business communities and share best practices, such as Entrepreneurship Advocacy Initiatives are an integral strategy of outreach and support. In the current year, larger scale events that focus on patents and innovation, e-commerce startups, manufacturing, women in business, small business financing, and youth entrepreneurship have been delivered or are in progress.
One such upcoming event, planned for the month of March, is the Women’s Business Summit -- a daylong training to be held on March 13th at the University of Jamestown’s Reiland Fine Arts Center. This free event will provide an opportunity for women-owned businesses and interested parties to learn, network, and further discuss various topics such as Google’s Get Your Business Online program, cyber security, taxes, small business financing, ND Compass’ website, work & life balance, branding, and area business development resources. We are collaborating with the ND Women’s Business Center of Bismarck, which is also our official co-sponsor for the Women’s Business Summit. Registration is available through the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center website www.JREcenter.com. Details for all Center events are posted throughout the year on our website.
A second example of our programming is the 2018 Youth Tech & Entrepreneurship event, which will be held in late March in Valley City. Valley City State University’s faculty at the Software Engineering and Computer Information Systems department are collaborative partners in planning and launching this STEM event. With the guidance of university faculty, students will learn how to utilize Scratch software to create their own computer games. Teams will consist of four students and must have at least one female student. The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to coding and to help them become fluent in the use of new technology. Our guest speaker, Jeremey Neuharth, co-founder of Sycorr, will motivate students to develop an interest in technology and couple this passion with entrepreneurial skills.
Specialized training provides ongoing support to small businesses in the areas of financing, taxes, legal considerations, and social media marketing, as examples. Subject matter experts known within the community and regionally deliver this content. Key collaborative efforts with the local Jamestown SCORE (business mentoring program) and the ND Small Business Development Center provides an opportunity for the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center to increase its audience-scope, support a robust business development resource referral system, and increase small business awareness of the center.
Furthermore, an additional tier of programming is the entrepreneur-led coffee hour conversations. These smaller scale events are intended to engage the community in timely and relevant discussions on the topic of small business ownership, in order to share best practices and encourage new rural small business creation. Small business owners share their entrepreneurial journey with the community on how they started their enterprises, what types of challenges they encountered, what resources they relied on to start and become sustainable, and generally their unique wisdom. Generally, these meetings are held in each of the nine counties in order to support the creation of a new nexus of commercial activity.
Another value provided by the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center is that the University of Jamestown students, including but not limited to studying the disciplines of business administration, communications, computer science, and mechanical engineering majors, will engage in internships and participate in business trainings and events offered by the center and in collaboration with area resource partners. The Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center has assisted university students with the development of their individual entrepreneurial endeavors, thus focusing on both, supporting small business creation and tending to the goal of retaining talented young adults in the region after graduation.
What does future growth for the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center look like?
The future is bright. The Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center is focused on becoming an integral stakeholder within the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the south central North Dakota region. As discussed in “Startup Communities – Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City”, a book written by Brad Feld, the economic concept of network effects best exemplifies the addition of the center to the region’s business communities, where “the addition of a member to a network enhances the value for existing users”. He further adds, “Network effects make co-location more valuable.” As a new stakeholder to the economic region six, the center is finding new ways to collaborate with existing stakeholders, such as the South Central Dakota Regional Council, the Jamestown SCORE, the Idea Center, the ND Small Business Development Center, the ND Women’s Business Center, and regional chambers of commerce and economic developers.
Another possible direction for future growth is offering co-working space. Office space is available throughout the region that could be leveraged to support the creation of startup communities. Starting an initiative to provide both needed office infrastructure and technical assistance to startups is a business development strategy for future consideration.
Through its strategic initiatives, the aim of the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center is to remain congruent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s goals of supporting efforts to create economically thriving rural communities and to promote the adoption and implementation of rural innovation. The Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center is hopeful and excited to step into the future together with the communities of economic region six.
To learn more about Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center, visit: http://jrecenter.com/
Author Contact information:
Katherine Roth, Executive Director, Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center,
Email (phone): Katherine.Roth@uj.edu (701-253-4112)