Powering the Potential of Rural Communities

It’s 2014. The Winter Olympics are happening in Russia, Ebola is the health crisis the world is watching, and the Codefi co-founders are building out the area’s first co-working space in the Broadway Federal in downtown Cape Girardeau to provide a creative place for other tech entrepreneurs to call home.

A lot has changed since then - when’s the last time you thought about Ebola? Codefi’s mission has expanded dramatically. When we set out on our mission to have a digital economy and software-based businesses in our community, we learned quickly we had a lot of work to do and we’ve learned a lot since.

It’s not as easy as just creating a creative space or developing a startup competition with seed funding.1 It takes an entire system of programs and activities working together to rapidly create and help sustain a supply of digital talent,2 and to create increased demand from local and external tech companies that employ that talent. Through considerable trial and error, we’ve created a fairly complex ecosystem that produced results and over the past couple years it has attracted interest from other rural communities with similar challenges and goals.

Today, with the support of federal and local partners, we’re applying what we’ve learned locally to assist other rural communities in several regions across Missouri and Kentucky. A key moment in our growth and transition to our expanded mission was via a partnership with the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI)3 when they selected Cape in their inaugural Rural Innovation Initiative. We’re now a leading member of a growing national network of communities working towards establishing rural innovation hubs across America.

CORI's sister organization, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI)4 provided us with technical assistance and encouragement as we applied for (and received) an Economic Development Administration grant for the i6 Regional Innovation Strategies5 program. This investment allowed us to offer our assistance to groups in Paducah, Kentucky, and led to the expansion of our coding training program to 21 counties in West Kentucky and 29 counties in Southern Missouri.

CORI has continued to expand the programs and support they provide to a growing network of rural communities, and that has translated into local impact: it positions recent 1ST50K winners6 for venture capital funding from CORI’s Opportunity Zone seed investment fund,7 there is the expansion of our Youth Coding League8 and access to additional workforce training programs like The Future is Digital Challenge.9

Most importantly, CORI has helped connect us with industry leaders and their networks as we expand our mission to eliminate skill and opportunity gaps preventing workers, entrepreneurs and future generations across regions like Southern Missouri and West Kentucky from thriving in the digital economy.

Acronyms and mission statements aside, we want you to hear directly from those impacted by Codefi’s local work10 and get an idea of what we’re aiming for next:

Join us as we power the future.

Thank you to our partners at the Center on Rural Innovation and our friends at Southend Films11 for sharing our work in this film.