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Oxford among first in the Nation to host idea accelerator that funds local problem solvers

The City of Oxford and Lafayette County are among the first in the country eligible to apply to the Idea Accelerator, a program where those selected receive a “Pebble Grant” to fund a small-scale test of their ideas.

The Idea Accelerator is brought to Oxford by Heartland Forward and run by Builders + Backers, in partnership with Accenture, Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce, the City of Oxford, Lafayette County, Visit Oxford and the University of Mississippi. The Accelerator is the first of many programs that will be available to Oxford residents through Heartland Forward’s new Community Growth Program and Toolkit (CGPT), which aims to provide training, tools and resources for aspiring entrepreneurs in Heartland communities.

Anyone who has a creative and unexpected idea for solving a problem facing their community can complete the Idea Accelerator application, which is open through May 19. Residents with the most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a two-month long virtual program starting on June 1, 2021.

During the program, participants will quickly test ideas and solutions. To fuel these tests, participants will receive a Pebble Grant, mentorship from world-class entrepreneurs and resources from a nationwide network of supporters. The program will culminate with an opportunity to attend and share their promising ideas at Heartland Forward’s annual Summit in Bentonville, Ark., in September.

“Entrepreneurship is the foundation for sustained economic growth in the Heartland,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward. “By bringing together local partners and national organizations, the CGPT is providing communities with the resources needed to help inspire new ideas, build upon existing programs and connect with resources to achieve success. We’re so pleased to be starting the program in a community as vibrant as Oxford.”

“In Oxford and communities everywhere, there are people with unexpected ideas for tackling problems they care about solving,” said Donna Harris, senior fellow of Heartland Forward and founder and CEO of Builders and Backers. “People often just need a pathway to try those ideas. That’s what we are providing with the Idea Accelerator. We don’t know what solutions will work until we start testing them. We’re thrilled to be able to demonstrate the power of small experiments right here in Oxford.”

Home to the University of Mississippi, a major research university with more than 20,000 students, Oxford ranked among the country’s 30 most economically dynamic small cities in a 2020 analysis by Heartland Forward. In recent years, Oxford has enjoyed strong job growth, powered by a vibrant cohort of young, knowledge-intensive firms.

“This community effort, along with the training offered through the Community Growth Program and Toolkit will make Oxford truly stand out as a community,” said Jon Maynard, president and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation. “We can’t wait to see what experiments get up and running over the next few months and how these innovators can inspire others in the community to try out their ideas.”

Anyone interested in applying or learning more about the Idea Accelerator in Oxford can visit: buildersandbackers.com/oxford-accelerator.

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