Matt McKenna, a founder of Georgetown University’s Rural Opportunity Initiative and Executive in Residence, shared with Agri-Pulse to why rural areas need more, not less government funding. ROI aims to serve rural American communities by driving financially and socially-sustainable rural development. It has been well-established that rural businesses lag behind their urban counterparts in terms of venture and early growth capital investment, and accessing debt and operating capital. “You can’t expect people to move where the opportunities are, you have to bring the opportunities to the people,” says McKenna.
At the same time, private investors are eager to identify and support rural growth opportunities, but most are not aware of what is available, and often the deals are misaligned with traditional investment models. The investor experience in U.S. rural communities in some ways mirrors that of impact investors in search of deals overseas in developing regions, where the amount of capital is more robust than the pipeline of deals, and a mismatch exists between the levels and kinds of returns investors seek, and what small and growing businesses can offer.