Last week, I attended the first stop on Steve Case’s latest “Rise of the Rest” tour in Central Pennsylvania, which aims to highlight startup activity in traditionally under-the-radar tech communities in the U.S. The tour stopped in the cities of Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York — all towns that have traditionally relied on manufacturing to grow their economy, and whose business leaders are looking for ways to diversify their cities’ economies.

As a reporter who writes about startups outside of Silicon Valley and New York every day, it no longer surprises me to hear about a town of 50,000 people that has a small but thriving robotics startup — successful startups can be created anywhere. But talking with entrepreneurs, investors, and economic development leaders on the Rise of the Rest tour reminded me that it’s one thing to create cutting-edge startups in your community, and quite another to spread the word.

One anecdote in particular that stood out to me came from Sam Abadir, the founder of Aspire Ventures, a Lancaster-based early stage VC firm that focuses on artificial intelligence and Internet of Things companies. “I’ll give speeches at the local Rotary and they’ll say, ‘You can’t make that happen,’” Abadir said.

Making leaders of old-school economic development groups aware that these kind of cutting-edge startups exist in their backyard is another challenge. I spoke with the CEO of a Lancaster-based construction firm, who said that he wanted to work more with startups in the area, “but didn’t know where to start.”

I’m curious to hear from readers about what barriers they feel exist between the startups in their community and more established businesses or business development groups. Send feedback, news tips, or story suggestions to me via email — bookmark our Heartland Tech Channel, and please remember to share these #HeartlandTech stories on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook.

Thanks for reading,

Anna Hensel
Heartland Tech Reporter

P.S. Please enjoy this video from Columbus Business First, “Steve Case, J.D. Vance stop in Columbus during venture capital bus tour.


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