Part of the reason is that entrepreneurs want to be near other entrepreneurs. A community of startup founders makes for better ideas and better access to employees and funding.
Another part is that innovation hubs originated near universities. The Route 128 corridor, the first innovation center, sprang from Boston U., Harvard, MIT and other great schools. That’s no coincidence. Silicon Valley happened because of Stanford U. and the first generation tech companies that moved west, HP and IBM as examples.
There’s an opportunity for communities like the example in the article to assess its strengths and build from there. But, it requires the active assistance from local government. Look at what Chattanooga did with its municipal fiber and the business incubators it funded as a tech example.
I’m betting that tech is not the only avenue for the Appalachia region. Once there were furniture and cloth makers and other skilled manufacturing in that region that may be used to build a “maker” base of boutique businesses.
Not to be a smart ass, but there’s a maker movement in whiskey going on now across the country, Appalachia has some history there, too!