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Rural Opportunity Initiative

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The Rural Opportunity Initiative (ROI) aims to serve rural American communities by driving financially and socially-sustainable rural development. It’s been well-established that rural businesses lag behind their urban counterparts in terms of venture and early growth capital investment, and accessing debt and operating capital. At the same time, private investors are eager to identify and support rural growth opportunities, but most are not aware of what’s available, and often the deals are misaligned with traditional investment models. The investor experience in U.S. rural communities in some ways mirrors that of impact investors in search of deals overseas in developing regions, where the amount of capital is more robust than the pipeline of deals, and a mismatch exists between the levels and kinds of returns investors seek, and what small and growing businesses can offer. 

To stay informed about the Rural Opportunity Initiative, please email:

  • Leadership

    The Rural Opportunity Initiative is led at GSEI by its Executive in Residence, Matt McKenna.Until recently, Matt was senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack In this role, he developed public-private partnerships for rural investment to create economic development and growth.Previously, Matt served as chief executive officer of Keep America Beautiful, which focuses on volunteer leadership to build and sustain vibrant communities. He also brings 16 years of experience in senior management positions, including senior vice president of finance at PepsiCo and as a partner with Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts, a law firm in New York. He is a graduate of Georgetown Law and is an adjunct professor at Fordham University’s School of Law.

  • Rural Opportunity Initiative (ROI) - Iowa State University Rural Investment Workshop

    Are you an established Iowa ag related business with ambition to grow?  If so, join 10 to 20 investors unfamiliar with Iowa investment opportunities for a day in Des Moines.  Learn what the investors are looking for.  Pitch your businesses to investors ready to deploy capital. Learn the lessons of success and savvy from other rural entrepreneurs. 

    When: November 2, 2017
    Where: World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, 100 Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309

    9:30 AM - 10:00 AM Registration 
    10:00 AM - 4:00 PM Program (Lunch provided) 
    4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Cocktail Reception

    Rural ag-related businesses interested in attending can apply using here.

  • Partners

    The Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University is working with leaders from US Department of Agriculture, Purdue University, Iowa State, and Mississippi State to create and launch the ROI effort. By collaborating with academic leaders based in land grant universities, we leverage studies on rural development at these leading universities while leveraging their place-based know-how to advance rural economies. Complementing the rural know-how and knowledge assets of the land grant universities, Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown University affords direct connections with and insights into federal government agencies.