Mobility, Information, Part Of Strategy To Equip Rural People

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The second phase of a project to help rural residents employ cutting-edge techniques to boost their business prospects kicks off this month.

We knew through our business case and through our work with Industry Canada that one of the gaps in rural areas is the business applied applications of the Internet and the culture of the Internet, said Wendy Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit group Green Hectares.

The group partnered with Alberta s Adult Learning Councils to put on workshops across the province earlier this year. About 2,000 people, the majority over age 55 and involved in multi-generational farm businesses, took in Rural Road Show workshops. Now Green Hectares is now undertaking a second phase, with pilots starting this month. This phase has three inter-related elements.

Building Blocks for Business is a mobile incubation think-thank that will be set up in rural areas, with each employing a local facilitator.

They know the area. We have no intention to come in and tell them what they need to do, said Schneider. They know what they need to do and what they need to offer.

Sites will be set up across the province in community halls and underutilized spaces, and the initial goal will be to identify resources that would be useful to local business people, such as public Internet access, training, workshops or resources that could be shared by local businesses. The goal is to set up hot spots for business resources normally only available in larger urban centres.

It will actually be fitted to that community and be mobile, said Schneider.

Another component that will be rolling out in the fall is the Practice Pitch, in which would-be entrepreneurs can practice delivering their business plan to a group of professionals. In 90 minutes, people can make their pitch, receive comments and obtain mentoring.

This helps young professionals who have a business or who are developing a business to get short-term mentorship from the highest level of professionals we can get into that area for whatever that business needs, said Schneider. The panel can help you know what you don t know and can give you really sound advice back.

Practice Pitch sessions will be held at major shows such as FarmTech and FarmFair, and mini workshops may also be held in some communities.

The third initiative is the Six Degrees network centre, an information bank to help people build their businesses and connect with resources, online functions and professionals in their local areas. Schneider says the information bank acts like Wikipedia or Google but is more streamlined and specific.

This type of database has never been built before, not in this way. We re very excited about it, she said.

Green Hectares is working with a private company to build this network centre, which will contain a variety of resources to suit different learning styles of people who use it. Funding for Phase 2 is supplied by Rural Alberta Development Funding and Green Hectares partners, which include both agricultural and non-agricultural businesses, such as Rogers and Staples.

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Thistypeofdatabasehasneverbeenbuiltbefore,notinthisway.We reveryexcitedaboutit.

WENDY SCHNEIDER

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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