By Rhea Landholm
Small scale entrepreneurship is a proven strategy to revitalize rural communities. Owning one’s own business can create genuine opportunity across rural America with the support of a modest public investment.
The importance of entrepreneurship is particularly profound in the most rural areas. Our analysis of economic conditions in the farm and ranch counties of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas found that nearly 60 percent of job growth in the 1990s came from people creating their own job by starting a small non farm business.
Small entrepreneurship is the one development strategy that consistently works in these communities. This strategy also has the capacity to bring back young people – including those who earn a college degree. Our surveys of rural youth in northeast Nebraska found that half would like to someday own their own farm or business. That opportunity has the potential to draw them back to rural America.
Small business development helps rural people acquire assets and create wealth. That is essential. Asset and wealth-building through home ownership, business ownership and enhanced education lead to important long-term psychological and social effects that cannot be achieved by simply increasing income.
Businesses and houses bond one to a place and help to build sustainable communities. A commitment to rural asset- and wealth-building strategies can lead to stronger individuals, families and communities.
Small business are also very philanthropic. In a 2015 survey, an estimate of nearly half of all small businesses gave to charity with 90 percent of donations supporting local causes.
As part of National Small Business Week, April 30 to May 6, the Small Business Administration will offer free webinars. Find out more at https://www.sba.gov/nsbw/
Our own Rural Enterprise Assistance Project-REAP provides training, technical assistance, and small loans to entrepreneurs in Nebraska. You can find more information and resources at http://www.cfra.org.