Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Connecting community assets to market demand to build lasting livelihoods.

Identify a
Market Opportunity

Successful development initiatives require an approach that is right for the market and right for the region. Buyers in the market have specific preferences. Those preferences are better met by certain goods or services than they are others. And regions have unique stocks of capitals—natural resources, built infrastructure, skills, know-how, financing options, influence—that are better suited to address certain development opportunities than others.

The challenge for you as an economic and community development practitioner is to identify a market opportunity that is right for your region. What’s a market opportunity? In WealthWorks, a market opportunity is documented demand for a set of products or services that—with the right set of investments and connections—your region could pro­duce and that has good potential to generate wealth-building results. A market opportunity is a good deal for buyers and a good deal for the region because it represents a situation where you can meet buyers’ demands for products and services while at the same time growing stocks of capitals, increasing local ownership and control, and improving local livelihoods.

There are two major steps to take to winnow down from the big wide wonderful world of market opportunity possibilities to the few that make the most wealth-building sense for your region. Those steps are getting to know demand and matching demand with your region.

Get to know demand

It makes little sense to set up shop to make a product or provide a service that no one is buying or likely to buy. Yet a lot of effort in economic and community development is focused on producing more of what we already do or make in our region or attracting new industries—without finding out if that’s what buyers want now, or will want tomorrow.

WealthWorks action is built around a market opportunity where you can document demand. And you can document demand because you have established relationships with actual and potential buyers well before you put your development “spade” to the ground.

Of course, there are a lot of buyers out there buying a lot of goods and services. You can’t talk to all of them or research every product or service. So in WealthWorks, you start with what you know about your region to determine the buyers with whom you want to engage. By following one or more of three Scans for Demand, you can target the buyers you want to consult—both inside and outside the region—to find out what products or services they want and are willing to buy.

You might think of each of these scans as a set of conversations in which you are exploring. In fact, looking for market opportunities often sends you in a direction you never thought of before. So it is important to be curious and think outside the box. And none of these scans are mutually exclusive. In fact, one can often lead to another, and it’s quite useful to employ them all—in whatever order makes sense from your starting point—to connect with and better understand potential buyers and an initial set of market opportunities they might represent.

By following one or more of three Scans for Demand, you can target the buyers you want to consult—both inside and outside the region—to find out what products or services they want and are willing to buy.

Match Demand With Your Region

The point of building ongoing relationships with demand is to continually spot market opportunities that have good potential for your region. In WealthWorks, to narrow your selection further, it is important to consider which market opportunities are best suited for your region—meaning they will harness the most local energy, solid wealth-building potential, and capacity to scale into bigger and better results later.

Those three factors can frame how you explore your initial market opportunity options, so that you can move toward selecting one for your WealthWorks value chain.

It is important to consider which market opportunities are best suited for your region—meaning they will harness the most local energy, solid wealth-building potential, and capacity to scale into bigger and better results later.

Specialties: Local Food, Placemaking, Renewable Energy

States served: Minnesota

Additional details: Enhancing the vitality and quality of life in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties is the mission of Region Five Development Commission. Resiliency, inclusion and collaboration are guiding concepts in achieving mutually shared goals that continue to evolve with local municipalities, state, federal, philanthropic, non-profit and social advocacy agencies.

Contact: Cheryal Lee Hills, 218-894-3233

Mailing address:
200 1st Street NE, Suite 2
Staples, MN 56479

Alternative contact: Dawn Espe, 218-894-3233


Specialties: Food, Forestry/wood products, Tourism

States served: Idaho, Oregon, Washington

Additional details: RDI was formed in 1991 in response to the timber industry crisis facing the Pacific Northwest. Our nationally recognized programs and services help communities help themselves with effective and results-oriented training and resources necessary for individuals living in rural communities to build and sustain a better future in their communities. Our work is based upon our genuine commitment to build rural capacity through Leadership Development programs and strengthen Rural Economic Vitality through moving capacity into action.

Contact: Amy Hause, (541) 255-9590

Mailing address:
Rural Development Initiatives
91017 S Willamette St
Coburg, Oregon 97408

Alternative contact: Heidi Khokhar, (541) 684-9077 ext. 7011


Specialties: Food, Forestry/wood products, Housing, Tourism

States served: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

Region details: RCAC serves 13 western states including: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. We also work in the U.S. territories of the Marianas Islands, Marshall Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Additional details: RCAC Value Chains, economic development and Wealth Works are embedded in RCAC’s Building Rural Economies program. With over 10 years of experience in these arenas we technically assist communities who wish to envision and create their future.

Carol Cohen, 435-671-7068

Mailing address:
3120 Freeboard Drive
Suite 201
West Sacramento, CA 95691

Alternative contact: Ellen Drew, (575) 421-0261


Specialties: Energy efficiency

States served: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming

Additional details: Midwest Assistance Program (MAP) has been helping communities and tribal nations find solutions to their infrastructure and development needs through information, resource management, expertise, and technical assistance since 1979.

Contact: Chris Fierrros, 660-562-2575

Mailing address:
303 N Market Street, Suite 2
Maryville, MO 64468


Specialties: Bio-energy, Food

States served: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas

Region details: Communities Unlimited serves seven southern states: Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee. Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Alabama. This is an area that includes 60% of this country’s persistently poor counties, including large percentages of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

Additional details: Communities Unlimited has 40 years of community economic development experience in the South. It seeks to move rural and under-resourced places toward prosperity by identifying a community’s assets and the market demand for the products or services created from those. We then build value chain collaboratives based on WealthWorks principles to create new economic opportunities. Since 2013, we are demonstrating the success of this approach through a farm-to-fuel value chain in the Arkansas Delta.

Primary Contact:
Martha Claire Bullen, 479-443-2700

Alternative Contact:
Ines Polonius

Mailing address:
3 East Colt Square Drive
Fayetteville, AR 72703

Alternative contact: Debbie Luther, 870-509-1331


Specialties: Arts, Food, Forestry/wood products, Tourism

States served: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont

Additional details: Community Roots, LLC is a Vermont firm specializing in rural community and economic development consulting. Melissa Levy of Community Roots, LLC has been working with the WealthWorks framework over the past several years. She’s been a trainer, coach, workshop facilitator, and presenter in the WealthWorks community.

Contact: Melissa Levy, 802-318-1720

Location: Hinesburg, VT


Specialties: Arts, Energy efficiency, Food, Forestry/wood products, Manufacturing, Tourism

States served: Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia

Additional details: The Central Appalachian Network is a regional network of six anchor organizations that pursue collective sustainable economic development strategies across the Appalachian region of Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. CAN builds regional partnerships and also works deeply at the sub-regional level around sectors and opportunities including local food value chains, forestry, new energy, small business development, social enterprise, recycling/upcycling, implementation-focused research, advocacy, and organizational capacity-building. CAN’s members are Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet), Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), Coalfield Development Corporation, Community Farm Alliance (CFA), Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF), and Rural Action.

Contact: Leslie Schaller, 740-592-3854

Mailing address:
1456 C Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28806