Rural Support Partners, mission-driven management consultants with a participatory approach to create lasting, equitable change in rural areas. Rural community and economic development.

A Look at Entrepreneurial Appalachia

A Look at Entrepreneurial Appalachia

Entrepreneurial Appalachia: a Report for the ARC

Throughout Appalachia, entrepreneurs are forging a new economic model — one based on local investment and local ownership. Their impact is already being felt in some of the Region’s evolving economic sectors, including energy, manufacturing, health care, and local food production.

Prompted in part by Appalachia’s need for economic diversification, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) commissioned RSP to research and summarize entrepreneurial opportunities within these economic sectors and to examine innovative projects that demonstrate multiple benefits to rural and underserved communities. The result is seven case studies and an overview of the opportunities and challenges within each of the promising sectors.

Aided by an advisory team who provided valuable insight into the case study selection process, the examples presented in the report demonstrate job creation potential, cross-sector partnerships, and community impact. We invite you to read about seven successful entrepreneurial efforts throughout Appalachia, with a focus on extracting those lessons with the most potential for informing local and regional economic development efforts in your community.


Appalachia is a 205,000 square mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. It includes all of West Virginia and portions of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

The Selected Case Studies

  • A Kentucky energy-efficiency initiative aimed at reducing energy costs for rural households.
  • An Ohio business incubator that supports clean-energy startup companies.
  • A South Carolina partnership that works to create healthier environments and improve community wellness.
  • An Alabama program that increases healthcare career opportunities by connecting university medical students, rural high schoolers, and local healthcare providers.
  • A furniture manufacturer in West Virginia that creates hand-crafted, value-added products from Appalachian hardwoods.
  • A cluster of innovative local food initiatives in West Virginia that use rural-urban connections, place-based branding, and agritourism to increase income for food and farm entrepreneurs.
  • A local food hub that helps small farmers in Virginia and Tennessee access larger markets.

Download the report here to continue reading.

Keep up to date with our newsletter

Sign up for RSP and The New School's newsletter to receive updates from RSP, course and programming announcements from The New School, and tools and resources gathered and developed by our team with 50 years of combined experience in nonprofit and social-enterprise management, philanthropy, network development, and community development finance.

Management - Strategy - Collaboration

Rural Support Partners equips changemakers, organizations, and networks to cultivate lasting, equitable, participatory change in rural areas.

Rural Support Partners. All Rights Reserved.