Matthew Raker Director of Community Investments & Impact, Mountain BizWorks Asheville, NC Accelerate Collaboration, Act Local First, Regenerate Soil & Nature | Business Network / Alliance, Community Economic Development, Environmental Sustainability, Rural Community Development Matt works at the intersection of economy and environment, growing small businesses and the ecosystem for sustainable industries in western North Carolina. Matt and the team at Mountain BizWorks help local small businesses start, grow, and create jobs through loans, classes, and coaching. Previously, Matt served as the Vice President of Entrepreneurship at AdvantageWest, a regional economic development partnership in western North Carolina. As director of AW’s entrepreneurship efforts, Matt worked closely with regional partners to ensure WNC was home to a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Building on his considerable work at the intersection of economy and environment, Matt also headed their AdvantageGreen program, an initiative to capitalize on WNC’s exceptional natural assets and opportunity to be a leader in sustainable industries. Through AdvantageGreen, Matt worked with startups, existing industry and regional partners to advance WNC economic clusters in clean energy, green building technologies, natural products, sustainable agriculture, outdoor sports and climate science. Matt holds degrees in Economics and Natural Resources Management from UNC Asheville. Impact Manages the Advantage Opportunity Fund, a revolving loan fund for seed-stage entrepreneurs in WNC. Since 2007, AOF has provided more than $900,000 in capital and attracted more than $9,000,000 in additional investment into locally owned startups. Brought local economy leaders from across Western North Carolina together to produce Venture Local, an annual local+sustainable+social business forum, that seeks to celebrate and advance Western North Carolina’s success in sectors like local foods, natural products, energy, and others. Helped facilitate the establishment of the EvolveEnergy Partnership to expand WNC’s clean energy economy. Currently supporting the creation of a new business accelerator with an aim to launch high-impact entrepreneurial ventures in sustainable agriculture and natural resource-based industries.