Last week, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) hosted the highly anticipated “Leveraging Regionalism to Empower Small Businesses” Summit, held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. This landmark event drew together a diverse array of hundreds of experts, thought leaders, and stakeholders, all united in their commitment to exploring strategies for fostering small business growth within varied regional landscapes.

Reflecting on the summit, Natalie Madeira Cofield, president and CEO of AEO, remarked, “Our inaugural Regional Summit has ignited crucial conversations on regionalism, growth, and sustainability. It’s clear that by working together and embracing innovative strategies, we can create a brighter future for small businesses and communities across the country.”

Highlighting the importance of the collaboration and partnership across all support levels, the Summit featured a deep conversation between Cofield and Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development of the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Together, they emphasized the pivotal role of government in supporting small businesses and regional economies. “When you start to look at the map writ large, and play it out a few more years, you are going to see places that traditionally had not been thought of as places of innovation, really blossom,” shared Assistant Secretary Castillo. Further underscoring the significance of partnership in today’s economic context, she challenged attendees to have an innovative mindset, stating, “it’s the seeding of ideas, the seeding of efforts and initiatives that can be transformational. And we need your partnership to make it happen.”

As the day unfolded, attendees were treated to a series of engaging panel discussions exploring the intricacies of navigating the small business ecosystem at the state and local levels, offering insights into regulatory challenges and financial accessibility issues and the impact of local-centric strategies in empowering small businesses. These panels drew on real-world case studies to highlight the importance of addressing community-specific challenges.The summit culminated in a thought-provoking conversation on Sustainability and Inclusion for Small Businesses. In an era defined by transformation, the imperative for small businesses to lead the charge in driving environmental sustainability and social inclusion has never been clearer. Attendees gained exclusive access to forthcoming insights from AEO, setting the stage for meaningful dialogue and actionable steps towards fostering a resilient, equitable business landscape.

As the event concluded, attendees were urged to seize the opportunity to engage with industry leaders, foster collaborative dialogue, and drive impactful change. The call to action was clear: join AEO in its mission to empower small businesses and shape a more inclusive, prosperous future for all.