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Shoals Shift Project: an ecosystem transformation success story

Edward Morrison (Agile Strategy Lab, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)
John D. Barrett (Department of Economics and Finance, University of North Alabama, Florence, Alabama, USA)
Janyce B. Fadden (Department of Economics and Finance, University of North Alabama, Florence, Alabama, USA)

Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy

ISSN: 2045-2101

Article publication date: 6 September 2019

Issue publication date: 20 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to apply a reflective theory of development for entrepreneurial ecosystems in the Muscle Shoals region of northern Alabama. The theory provides guidance for practitioners and policymakers interested in developing entrepreneurial ecosystems.


The theory offers five propositions, which are illustrated and applied in the case study. The propositions include the need for civic leaders recognizing local talent; support networks for entrepreneurs; a quality, connected place; activities designed to increase interactivity for entrepreneurs within the ecosystem; five distinct phases producing replicable, scalable and sustainable projects; and universities providing platforms upon which the ecosystems can develop.


Application of the proposed theory is transforming the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Muscle Shoals region. In just four years, the project has produced over 30 initiatives and events, precipitously increased student participation in entrepreneurial ventures and raised over $1m.


The theory and its application developed from a collaboration between the Agile Strategy Lab at Purdue University and the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development at the University of North Alabama. This collaboration is replicable, scalable and sustainable, and is a model for university-led entrepreneurial ecosystem development and transformation.



Morrison, E., Barrett, J.D. and Fadden, J.B. (2019), "Shoals Shift Project: an ecosystem transformation success story", Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 339-358.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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