Growing Rural Economies: Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Track Leader: Paul Wright and Les Roll

Track Description: As we learn to plan and invest in our post-coal economy communities, many people are trying new approaches to grow their local economy. They envision a new economy that creates and retains wealth for more people and is intentional in community benefits and provides an alternative to recruiting the next extractive industry or exporting our young people just to earn a living. This track will present creative ways to identify, retain and grow businesses, leverage local assets while building an economy that creates value for both entrepreneurs and communities.

Participants in this track will:

  • Make new connections to other people and resources that are supporting entrepreneurship
  • Be introduced to asset-based community economic development approaches and best practices
  • Hear from community leaders how they leveraged local assets to spur entrepreneurship
  • Learn ways to support enterprises at different stages of development and sector development
  • Develop a plan of action to start building or strengthening your local entrepreneur environment.
  • Experience a culture of support, creativity and innovation to take home to your community.

Intended Audience:

Community leaders who are interested in supporting new businesses in their rural communities. Scholarships reserved for persons actively working on teams who are focused on entrepreneurship, community-driven economic development or downtown redevelopment projects in Central Appalachia and East Kentucky.

Track Level:


Paul Wright directs MACED’s enterprise support and capital programs and oversees the Social Enterprise Support Initiative. He offers 15 years industry experience, including: community facilities financing, grants management, organizational development and management consulting. Prior to coming to MACED in 2011, Paul developed a nationally recognized comprehensive community development initiative in Houston, Texas, ran his own business coaching/consulting franchise and organized various collaborative networks to achieve common goals. Paul holds a BS in Business Administration from Birmingham-Southern College, an MBA in Community Economic Development from Eastern College, and is an Economic Development Finance Professional certified through the National Development Council. He resides in Berea with his wife and four kids and enjoys hiking, mountain biking and time with his family.

Les Roll opened MACED’s Hazard office in 2011. His work focuses on serving entrepreneurs and businesses in 14 counties with MACED’s Enterprise Development Program and supporting the comprehensive community development efforts underway in Hazard. Les is on the steering committee of InVision Hazard, a downtown redevelopment coalition; the board of Redbud Financial, LLC, an emerging consumer finance CDFI; and the founding board chair of Northfork Local Food, Inc., a regional local food nonprofit operating the Perry County Famer’s Market. A two-term AmeriCorps alum, Les is a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law (’09) and a member of the Kentucky Bar.