First Certified Entrepreneurial Community in America Recognized at National Ceremony in Waynesville, NC -- Haywood County leads Nation in Support of Entrepreneurs

AdvantageWest Economic Development Group extends certification to Haywood County, NC as a Certified Entrepreneurial Community through a program developed by the 23 county economic development organization. The Certified Entrepreneurial Community program is a rigorous five-step process developed for community leaders to improve the business climate. Key points include asset mapping and developing a strategy for growth, improving access to capital for entrepreneurs and providing a superior support system.

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We don't have the open fields and the land to bring in huge industry with thousands of employees like other regions

Asheville, NC (PRWEB) October 24, 2008

Haywood County is the first community in the United States to be named a Certified Entrepreneurial Community, a new program of AdvantageWest Economic Development Group that aims to encourage and support entrepreneurship while improving the business climate for existing companies.

The community will celebrate Haywood County's success during an event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 24 at The Gateway Club in Waynesville. Haywood County is located in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Through the CEC program, a community leadership team works to assess how entrepreneur-ready their community is and to plan how small businesses and start-ups can play increasingly vital roles in the local economy.
Haywood County had to complete a rigorous, five-step process to become certified. Those steps included assessing the community's current entrepreneurial landscape, creating a comprehensive strategy for entrepreneurial growth, marshaling the community's entrepreneurial resources, and identifying and nurturing the community's most promising entrepreneurial talents.

With the CEC certification, Haywood will participate in a co-op marketing campaign through AdvantageWest to promote their new status domestically and internationally. The new certification also brings with it improved access to capital through the AdvantageWest "Advantage Opportunity Fund" revolving loan program.

The CEC program was an attractive next step for Haywood County, where leaders in business, economic development and education have been working together for a while to encourage entrepreneurship.

"We don't have the open fields and the land to bring in huge industry with thousands of employees like other regions," said Mark Clasby, Executive Director of the Haywood County Economic Development Commission and a member of the community's five-person CEC team. "We realize entrepreneurship is very important and we've been working on it for years. It's been a part of EDC's strategy for five years."

The community demonstrated a major commitment by developing another first for North Carolina with an Articulation Agreement between Haywood Community College and Western Carolina University for transfer credit from the A.A.S. in Entrepreneurship degree into the Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurship.

The CEC Program has been presented twice in testimony before the US House in entrepreneurship hearings led by Congressmen Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.). AdvantageWest has worked with economic development organizations in eight other states who are interested in a CEC nationwide expansion project.

"The purpose of the CEC program is to create a business climate, with superior resources where an entrepreneur can realize his or her dream," said Dale Carroll, President and CEO of AdvantageWest.

The AdvantageWest region - the 23 westernmost counties of North Carolina -- is the first area in the country to initiate a comprehensive method to make communities entrepreneur-ready. Thirteen additional communities in the region have pledged their intent to become CEC certified including county wide initiatives in Macon, Mitchell, McDowell, Yancey, Polk, Ashe, Watauga, Transylvania, Swain, Burke, Rutherford and leadership teams working towards certification on behalf of the Town of Black Mountain and The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian.

For more information on the CERTIFIED ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITY program, e-mail plewis(at)awnc.org or call Pam Lewis, Senior Director of Programs at AdvantageWest, at (828) 687-7234.

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