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CREATE Program

Cultivating Rural Entrepreneurs and Transforming Economies

As our rural communities prepare to embrace the future – globalization, automation, and innovation – we must consider a comprehensive and inclusive growth approach that extends beyond industrial recruitment. That’s why we are launching the CREATE program, a two-year cohort program focused on "Cultivating Rural Entrepreneurs And Transforming Economies."

The CREATE Program is a multi-year cohort program developed in partnership between Georgia Power Company, Main Street America, and the University of Georgia Office of Public Service and Outreach. An overview of the program and application instructions are detailed below.

Applications are currently closed. To prepare for future CREATE opportunities, the application is available for download at right.

Program Overview

This program is intended to provide your community with the technical assistance, seed capital, and guidance to accomplish the following:

  • Identify the assets and gaps of your community’s entrepreneurial/small business support system, including potential areas for investment.
  • Understand the importance of a healthy entrepreneurial/small business support system to your local and regional economy and how these types of businesses can support long-term community and economic development goals (e.g., vibrant downtown, talent retention/attraction).
  • Identify potential partners, resources, and funding sources to support project implementation.
  • Learn about best practices related to entrepreneurial/small business support systems in other rural communities.
  • Elevate the voices of existing entrepreneurs and small business owners.

These efforts will culminate in the creation and implementation of a targeted growth strategy and plan for your local and regional economy, providing definitive next steps for supporting and attracting entrepreneurs and small businesses to your community.

Program Duration

The Program will span 2-years and requires your team’s full participation at four in-person sessions to be held over the course of 1.5-days twice annually. Dates to be confirmed.

  • May 10-11, 2022: Athens, GA
  • October 12-13, 2022: Athens, GA
  • March & October 2023: Location TBD

Program Cost

Participants are expected to cover the cost of transportation and accommodations for the four in-person sessions. Most meals will be provided.

Seed Capital

Selected communities will receive a $5,000 seed grant to kick-start implementation of ideas identified as part of the strategic planning process.

Community Eligibility

Only applications from rural communities will be considered. A rural community is defined as a county with 50,000 residents or fewer.

Participation & Team Composition

Participating communities are expected to identify 5 to 6 champions to participate in the program alongside the team leader(s). These champions must be noted on your community’s application to be considered. In-person participation of all team members at program sessions is expected.

Champions may include local government leaders, regional partners, and community and economic development leaders (e.g., representatives from chambers of commerce, development authorities, and main street organizations). Additionally, selected champions should have knowledge of diverse areas relevant to entrepreneurs and small businesses, such as finance, real estate, legal/regulatory affairs, marketing, expansion/market entry, and product licensing.

At least one participant must be an entrepreneur or small-business owner, acknowledging that this individual may not be available to attend all in-person sessions.


Your team’s participation in all in-person events is expected.

Selection Process

Partner organizations will evaluate all complete applications upon receipt. A total of 5 to 7 communities will be selected to participate in the program.

Selection Criteria

Applications will be evaluated on several key criteria deemed imperative to spurring positive impact, specifically the successful implementation of the foundational pillars associated with entrepreneurial/small business support systems. Proposed projects that prioritize the following will be ranked more favorably:

  • Community Readiness: Demonstration of community motivation to fully participate in the program sessions, regularly convene with community champions and subject matter experts, and affect positive change through strategy implementation.
  • Community Champions: Participation commitment of 5 to 6 community champions knowledgeable of local entrepreneurial and small-business resources and needs.
  • Sustainability: Ability for the local community to implement identified strategies and sustain investment in impactful programming opportunities beneficial to entrepreneurs and small businesses.


Questions about future opportunities or the applications should be submitted to Sarah Carnes ( and Scott Purvis (