RCAP Solutions Selected in Inaugural Economic Recovery Corps to Drive Sustainable Economic Growth in Rural Communities

Media Contact: Maegen McCaffrey, Vice President of Communications, RCAP Solutions, Phone: 978.630.6714; Email: mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce that the organization has been selected as a host for the first cohort of Economic Recovery Corps Fellows, headed by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

The Economic Recovery Corps (ERC) Fellowship program aims to build capacity in economically distressed areas across the U.S. while cultivating the next generation of economic development leaders. The program connects 65 host sites nationwide with diverse practitioners and leaders with the passion, skills, and vision to create new ways of performing economic development. The ERC Fellowship was launched in 2023 through a $30 million cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). It is led by the International Economic Development Council and supported by six other national economic development organizations.

Each project across the United States receives a dedicated fellow, who is fully funded for 2.5 years from the ERC program, serving as a field catalyst to enhance, strengthen, and coordinate relationships and local efforts alongside the host communities. RCAP Solutions was matched with Elyse Oliver, who brings a wealth of education, experience, and passion to help the organization and local stakeholders on the “Community Engagement to Guide Ecosystem Development” project.

“We are excited to begin work with Economic Recovery Corp fellow, Elyse Oliver, and engage in community-led economic development planning and stakeholder engagement in rural communities,” expressed Jenna Day, Director of Development at RCAP Solutions. “This is an exciting opportunity to partner with IEDC and EDA to impact sustainable infrastructure planning and we are looking forward to what the next 30 months will mean to growing local capacity for development.”

This community engagement project, led by RCAP Solutions, will address challenges faced by disadvantaged communities in Franklin County, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont regarding infrastructure development and economic sustainability. The project aims to shift the narrative in rural communities, identifying opportunities for local capacity growth, fostering thriving small businesses, and promoting sustainable economic development. Ms. Oliver will play a pivotal role in community interaction, research of rural ecosystems, and infrastructure requirements. She will conduct extensive outreach and utilize online surveys and tools to validate identified needs. The goal is to communicate findings, gain insights, and identify catalysts for a regional action plan that will support resource planning for small rural communities seeking to cultivate sustainable economies.

“ERC is more than a fellowship; it is a testament to the power of collaboration and strategic partnerships deeply needed to produce lasting social and economic impact. By joining forces with national partners, host organizations, funders, and practitioners eager for new models and practices, ERC will build capacity in places of need while supporting the next generation of economic development leaders, all while driving more equitable economic outcomes,” said Nathan Ohle, President & CEO of IEDC. “By investing in capacity building and leadership development, facilitating knowledge sharing and partnerships, the ERC program will set the stage for the future of economic development and a new age of collaboration in the economic development field.”

RCAP Solutions was chosen from over 500 applications to be among the 65 host sites selected to receive help in advancing this project, which is critical to the economic recovery of our community. ERC projects represent the interconnectedness between economic development and the pressing needs in communities of all sizes, including workforce development, entrepreneurial ecosystem building, housing, childcare, climate resiliency, broadband, and access to capital.

“I’m excited about forming deep relationships with residents and town representatives,” commented Elyse Oliver, RCAP Fellow. “I look forward to demonstrating how community engagement can and should occur – as a central, guiding activity for pivotal planning efforts.”

For more information on how your community might benefit from RCAP Solutions’ “Community Engagement to Guide Ecosystem Development” project, please contact Madison Wellman at mwellman@rcapsolutions.org, call: (774) 239-9783, or visit: www.rcapsolutions.org/economic-development.

For more information about the Economic Recovery Corps program, please visit: economicrecoverycorps.org.

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.
RCAP Solutions is the go-to resource of sustained success for communities throughout the northeastern part of the U.S. and the Caribbean. Established in 1969 (as Rural Housing Improvement), RCAP Solutions has supported the power and potential of communities for over half a century as strategists of community-wide well-being. Our mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

About IEDC
The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 4,300 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities by creating, retaining, and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base. From public to private, rural to urban, and local to international, IEDC’s members engage in the full range of economic development practices. Given the breadth of economic development work, our members are employed in various settings, including local, state, provincial, and federal governments, public-private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities, and a variety of other institutions. When we succeed, our members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life in their regions. Learn more at iedconline.org.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. Learn more at www.eda.gov.

‘Twas Mid December at RCAP Solutions…

Click here to watch our holiday video!

‘Twas Mid-December and all through the skies,
RCAP teams with care and wise.
In every office, staff worked with glee,
Offering essential aid, as busy as can be.

The needy many, deserving of cheer,
In this season of giving, their hopes draw near.
For when the demand rises, so great and so clear,
RCAP’s dedication shines, year after year.

In our Housing Consumer Education Center,
We make sure every client has a supportive mentor,
To assist in all aspects of home ownership and leasing,
In case you should see a problem increasing,
If a concern should arise, there’s lending or training,
Should you find your bank account suddenly draining.

With Subsidized Housing, we help pay the rent,
Offering programs for both landlord and tenant.
Everyone deserves a safe home and a bed,
Where each family member can rest their head.
We can also assist with housing mobility,
And case management for economic stability.

Our Housing for Seniors and the Mobility Impaired,
Offers features and services that can’t be compared.
Our professional staff is supportive and giving,
With countless services for independent living.
For those who reside in RCAP’s great care,
Our teams will provide for ALL who live there.

Our Environmental Crew work with communities to ensure,
The water that pours from the tap is pure.
From Maine to Pennsylvania, we offer technical assistance,
For those in rural regions, we’ll travel the distance.
Whether it’s wastewater, mapping, training, and more,
We’ll assess your infrastructure, and help settle the score.

The Caribbean Team helps the islands with pollution,
Teaching about recycling, and solid waste solutions.
We offer disaster planning, and prepare for the future,
Should climate change impact your region and need suture.
Financial assistance for septic or well repair,
We’re here for our communities, never despair!

Here in Massachusetts, we’re Advocating for Change,
For private well homeowners, who may need a range,
Of regulations for education, testing, and support,
Should their water tests come up short,
And need repair to keep families in good health,
For every resident, across the Commonwealth.

Our Administrative Staff provides support to our programs,
IT keeps us online, and safely protected from scams.
Finance cuts checks and keeps the books in balance,
HR supports the organization, hiring people with talents.
Marketing ensures the public is in the know,
And Development guarantees that funding won’t slow.

In the Northeast our influence spreads, far and wide in stride,
In Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, forever shall we reside.
Fostering community’s power, potential, a bond we unify,
In this commitment, our focus and unity lie.

Nurturing strength, resilience, and confidence, our gift to bestow,
Supporting individuals, families, communities, helping them grow.

Open for Business Program Case Study: Neck-O Pillow, Supportive Guidance to Launch a Supportive Product

Written By: Madison Wellman, Coalition Manager/Business Opportunity Specialist

BACKGROUND: Ms. Ellen Sheehan is a dental hygienist from Wilmington, Massachusetts. While working in the dental office she noticed a need for a new product; an ergonomic pillow to support the necks of her patients on and off the dental chair. After much hard work, Ms. Sheehan developed a prototype pillow in her spare time that she felt was ready for full production. She approached Workers Credit Union for financing to launch her new enterprise, Neck-O Pillow. Workers Credit Union could see the value in Ms. Sheehan’s business, but in order to secure the loan she needed an appropriate business plan and projections, neither of which Ms. Sheehan was prepared to produce on her own.

THE CHALLENGE: Entrepreneurial success requires, among other things, a broad skillset including accounting, marketing, planning, and managerial skills. The easiest way to develop these skills is through experience and formal business education. However, these avenues are not equally accessible to all aspiring entrepreneurs. This disparity has produced a shared sense of underdeveloped entrepreneurial capacity in communities across the country, both urban and rural. Lack of educational opportunities, poor connectivity infrastructure, and a general absence of human capital capable of providing mentorship and expertise in our communities all contribute to the high business failure rate in our nation’s villages, small towns, and even larger cities. RCAP is striving to surmount these obstacles by delivering the absent human capital to communities across the country in a cost-effective manner. In meeting this challenge, RCAP is building permanent entrepreneurial capacity among every-day Americans.

THE APPROACH & SOLUTION: To rise to the challenge detailed above, RCAP launched the Open for Business Program. The program delivers business expertise to rural communities through webinars, online workshops, and one-on-one business consultations made available to entrepreneurs at no cost. All services are delivered remotely to reduce cost and maximize geographic reach.

Ellen Sheehan utilized this program to receive free guidance from RCAP’s experienced consultants. The RCAP consulting team worked with Ms. Sheehan to develop her business plan and financial projections to model her path to success. At the time of this writing, Ms. Sheehan received 159.5 hours of free one-on-one consulting assistance.

THE IMPACT: The most tangible impact of the assistance received by Ms. Sheehan is the business plan and projections that she was able to produce with the guidance of our senior consultants. These documents enabled Ms. Sheehan to return to Workers Credit Union and successfully apply for SBA small business financing. With her secured capital, Ms. Sheehan was able to contract with a Massachusetts-based contract manufacturer to begin production of her pillows. The senior consulting team was also able to advise Ms. Sheehan on her digital marketing strategy and guide her in the complicated process of becoming a successful seller on Amazon. Today, she is steadily making sales and receiving substantial traffic on her website.

Despite these material benefits to Ms. Sheehan and her business, the greatest impact may be more intangible. The projections Ms. Sheehan produced with the assistance of our team did convince the lender that Ms. Sheehan’s business had great potential for growth but more importantly, it convinced Ms. Sheehan that her business idea was feasible and has the potential to grow into a successful enterprise.

In a follow-up interview conducted for the purposes of this case study, Ms. Sheehan shared that over one year since she first engaged with RCAP she still looks back at the original projections she made with our team for inspiration. “Seeing that growth potential on paper still keeps me going,” Ms. Sheehan reported. Ms. Sheehan went on to share that the knowledge our consultants brought to her was invaluable and that their flexible availability and positive demeanor reassured her that she, and Neck-O Pillow, could succeed. If not for RCAP’s Open for Business Program, it is likely that Ms. Sheehan never would have launched Neck-O Pillow. In her own words, “getting your contact info was the best thing that could have happened to me…I don’t think I could have done this without you guys.”