#453. Growing Entrepreneurs – Lessons from the Road

Posted on | The Agurban

Growing Entrepreneurs—Lessons from the Road

Craig Lindvahl, the incredible entrepreneurship teacher who is teaming up with me on our “BoomtownUSA’s Millennials:  Supercharged Entrepreneurs Tour” and I were in the Verde Valley of Arizona last week.  This remote, but incredibly beautiful region showed me why the new paradigm for economic development is in growing your own entrepreneurs rather than trying to recruit in the next great company.

The Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization is one of the best regional ED groups I’ve seen, and it’s run completely with volunteers.  Mary Chicoine, who chairs the group, moved from IL and runs her own non-profit consulting business in addition to leading this dynamic organization.  They’ve engaged all of the stakeholders from a rather large area (bigger than the state of Massachusetts!) centered around the towns of Sedona, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome, and Camp Verde.  Sedona is the largest with a population of 10,000.

I sat next to Andy Groseta who runs a family ranching operation.  He told me, “We can only get about 10 head per section.”  For those of you from more urban areas, a section is 640 acres, or 1 mile x 1 mile in size.  With 400 head, that is a LOT of acres!  You’ve got to be a hearty soul to care for that many cattle over that large a ranch.

The Verde Valley understands the importance of entrepreneurs to their economy and is working to make it easier for new ones to start up.  They are working to beef up their broadband capacity, especially with over 500 electronically digital telecommuters located there.  These entrepreneurs are doing consulting, cyber security, information technology oversight, and one is even running a music school in Boston.  They’ve set up an organization of Nerds of the Valley Verde to allow them to connect more easily and to assist each other with working remotely.

Tom Pitts runs the Wine Consortium, a group of 18 wineries, most of which have been started in the last five years.  Already, over 400 are employed in this new sector for the Valley, and it generates $30 million in tourism dollars each year.

Steve Goetting is a serial entrepreneur, and attracts young entrepreneurs to the area.  His son Alex is launching a microbrewery, and also works with a business incubator called the Verde Portal that is designed to assist entrepreneurial efforts in agriculture, heritage, recreation and art.

Sedona has 3,000 Chamber of Commerce members in a town of 10,000!  That is an incredible number of local entrepreneurs.  My guess is that the Chamber will continue to grow as areas like the Verde Valley continue to promote their wonderful quality of life, sense of place and ease of working remotely from a place that you love.