Big universities are sometimes criticized for contributing to a “brain drain” in rural areas because they lure bright minds away from their hometowns – many of whom never return. But a program at the University of Texas at Austin is now trying to boost rural and small-city entrepreneurship.
UT-Austin psychology professor Art Markman is director of the IC2 Institute. He says the institute promotes entrepreneurship, and has recently shifted its focus to encouraging business formation in small communities and rural areas. He says these efforts often involve focusing on the strengths of the area where entrepreneurs live, rather than encouraging them to telecommute for large companies in cities.
“Are there ways, for example, in West Texas, of doing a little bit more work on renewable energy? So that as the tides shift, related to oil prices, these communities might be a little more resilient,” Markman says.
To encourage potential entrepreneurs to work in their hometowns, Markman says his program works with students who haven’t yet chosen a career. Students get internships in their home communities and then research that area’s needs by interviewing government and business leaders.
“You allow them to see their community with adult eyes,” Markman says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.