Heartland Forward announces dramatic expansion of community growth program

Published 3:57 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Heartland Forward and its partners, Builders + Backers and Accenture, announced the expansion of the groundbreaking Community Growth Program and Toolkit (CGPT), a first-of-its-kind idea accelerator, Pebble Fund and Buildership™ program designed to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking and action.

Heartland Forward is committing to working with its partners to raise funding to support 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023. In Tulsa and Oxford, CGPT secured 100 percent retention from Builders. 

“Last year, Heartland Forward recognized Oxford in its 2020 Young Firms report ranking us 12th among the top 50 communities in the nation with a population of 50,000,” said Mayor Robyn Tannehill. “We are proud of this recognition for building an entrepreneurial ecosystem for Oxford that fosters strong growth for long-term economic success. We want people to move to Oxford and know we are here to support them in starting and growing their businesses.”

An investment by each community was important in making the program successful in both communities. Oxford’s sponsors were The University of Mississippi, Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation, City of Oxford and the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce.

“The program launched by Heartland Forward matches the way we do business in Oxford,” said Jon Maynard, president of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation. “People often hear me say that our economic development strategy is more like targeting ‘tropical fish’ instead of ‘big whales.’  

“Our focus has been on growing and nurturing smaller businesses instead of trying to ‘buy’ big new businesses to the area with large incentive packages that often give away the farm. The approach of the Community Growth Program and Toolkit works for our community and is why we welcomed Heartland Forward to launch in Oxford.”

The announcement of working to raise the funding for 1,000 Builders by 2023 was made during Heartland Forward’s virtual inaugural Community Impact Event, which featured guest speakers in conversation about how to stimulate entrepreneurialism in the heartland. The event also included local Builder Andi Bedsworth of Oxford, who has completed the program.

Bedsworth launched a fascinating new model to scale technical education for high-demand trade jobs. She believed that you could teach anyone who is motivated to learn the skills needed to fill jobs at manufacturers and other businesses and created a marketing campaign to see where her audience’s interests were.

She ended up meeting with several employers to create an employment funnel in Oxford to hire graduates of her program.  

“I love teaching people to sew and know that it can be a path to economic independence,” said Bedsworth. “I want to help create that path for people here in my community.”

“Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy, and that is why it made so much sense to accept the invitation and invest in Heartland Forward’s inaugural program, the Community Growth Program and Toolkit,” said Tannehill. “It has been wonderful to watch this first cohort of entrepreneurs and what they’ve achieved.”

Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes.

Heartland Forward conducts independent, data-driven research and programs to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit https://heartlandforward.org/.

Builders + Backers invests in exceptional entrepreneurs who are building global-scale ventures to power an entirely different future – one where technology creates value for many instead of capturing it for a few.

Through proprietary programming, Builders + Backers also inspires and equips people to best seize the opportunities of our digital era – from experimentation and solving problems in their local communities to starting new ventures that could scale. By backing the most creative builders across the country, we can shape the digital future to be one in which more people participate and thrive.

Accenture’s purpose is to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity. Accenture embraces the power of change to create 360° value and shared success for clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities.

Through partnerships with many of the world’s leading organizations, a network of specialists across industries and deep innovation capabilities, we help ideate, build, and scale transformational businesses that drive systemic change.