With a focus on innovation, local businesses and industry are giving unique opportunities to East Carolina University students and getting back quality and talent in return as part of the Rural Innovations Strengthening Eastern-29 Counties Program, known more simply as RISE29. The 29 counties in the title refers to the eastern North Carolina region primarily served by ECU. Formed out of ECU’s Miller School of Entrepreneurship, one of the program hallmarks is that the internships come from almost every academic discipline at the university.
Through the Community-Based Grants Initiative, Golden LEAF awarded $1 million to help counties in the Northeast Prosperity Zone retain existing small businesses and foster new business growth. East Carolina University received the award in February 2019. For now, the initiative is focused on businesses in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, and Pitt counties. So far, 29 businesses in these counties have received the support of 76 interns.
“The idea for RISE29 originated from thinking about ways to attract talent to rural communities,” said Dr. Sharon Paynter, ECU Assistant Vice Chancellor for Economic and Community Engagement. “ECU has a huge resource of students and talent to be deployed to help address some of the capacity issues in small businesses, whether it is consulting on a specific project or problem or helping them to think about new innovative ways to do something to expand their business.”
ECU connects with businesses in the four counties involved in the program through advisory councils. The councils consist of the local economic developers and business representatives. They assist in the marketing and recruiting of businesses who have a set of goals and a scope that student interns can help solve.
RISE29 is developing a national model for rural entrepreneurs with the goal of transforming eastern North Carolina through microenterprises, job development and existing business support. In fact, ECU has pledged to create the most student-led startups of any university in the state. Learn more about this innovative program by clicking here.
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