Grand Challenge

Center for Rural Innovation Receives $300,000 Grant to Fight Rural Economic Injury

cares graphicThe Center for Rural Innovation (TCRI) has received a $300,000 CARES Act grant through the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA). The grant will establish the TCRI CARES project, which will respond to economic injury as a result of coronavirus in the rural Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee. The project will help 200 local businesses, create 20 student internships, broadcast 50 interactive community Zoom calls, and produce a monthly PBS television series. "This project will help our region’s small businesses survive and thrive throughout the pandemic and beyond through a comprehensive approach to technical assistance, commercialization and entrepreneurship support, applied research, and community workforce talent support,” said Michael Aikens, the TCRI CARES director and PI.

The project will leverage the Upper Cumberland’s existing intellectual and physical resources in these efforts. The vision of the project directly aligns with the mission and spirit of TN Tech’s Rural Reimagined: Grand Challenge that harnesses science, technology, innovation, and economic development to transform rural living. The project will collaborate with TCRI community partners including the Local Business Resource Collective, Small Business Development Center, and Biz Foundry Entrepreneurship Center/Accelerator who will each supplement the project with coaching, mentorship, e-commerce development, legal counsel, access to capital and investor networks, and auxiliary CARES Act funding initiatives.  

The TCRI crafted the project’s scope of work based on what they have learned about the impacts of the pandemic on the region’s small businesses. Kinsey Potter, TCRI doctoral graduate intern and co-author of the grant, says “The project will include invaluable resources that help businesses not only respond to the coronavirus, but also help them to prevent and prepare for future coronavirus related impacts and other disasters through continuity and contingency planning assistance.” The project’s research will allow TCRI to continually measure, assess, and improve the project throughout the grant lifecycle and the pandemic. Outreach and engagement initiatives, alongside the WCTE PBS affiliate, will help to greatly increase awareness about the project and to promulgate project resources across the region. 

Wings up, TCRI! Stay tuned for project success stories and updates, and follow this link to view the official EDA press release. 

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