A new Upstate foundation has recruited the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service to start a rural entrepreneurship program in Abbeville, McCormick and southern Anderson counties. A university statement said the Freshwater Coast Community Foundation has provided $50,000 for the first year and plans two more annual allocations of the same amount.
The foundation, named for Savannah River area lakes, was organized with a $300,000 donation from the West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative to help foster economic development, education and arts in the two counties, as well as the Starr-Iva area of southern Anderson County. The foundation is operated by an independent board.
The entrepreneurship grant awarded to Clemson Extension is the foundation’s first project. The program providing businesses and prospective entrepreneurs with education, mentorship and consultation could be a model for other areas of the state, the statement said.
In addition to one-on-one business consultation, program coordinator Wilder Ferreira is working with community leaders and studying potential community-wide projects that would establish markets for area businesses. Ideas include:
*Establish robust community farmers markets for buying and selling locally grown produce.
*Develop a community kitchen where growers can package food affordably.
*Create an online database of local growers where restaurants and grocers can search the availability of locally grown produce each week.
*Establish regular meetings where businesses can network and brainstorm.
Ferreira also is conducting feasibility studies on possibly starting a fish hatchery along the Savannah River or a business to provide guided hunting tours or greenhouses that allow farmers to grow produce year-round.
Beyond agribusiness, Ferreira is working with schools, community organizations and leaders to start a competition that would provide a winning entrepreneur with capital to open a business in downtown Abbeville. He’s also enlisted area high schools to participate in an entrepreneurship contest.
Ferreira, who has been labeled “The Wild Man” in the rural area for his energy and propensity for big ideas, said the programs will improve quality of life and provide new markets for businesses.
“A lot of people have dreams. They just need help getting there,” Ferreira said. “We want to build the infrastructure and provide the education to help them realize their dreams.”
Lee Logan, chairman of the West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative board, is leading a community advisory panel for the entrepreneurship program.
“We have to continue to make the rural communities as viable as they can be,” Logan said.
Source – gsabusiness.com