Investment in Rural Business Vital to Global Economy
It’s a story I’ve heard too many times in my own life and in the lives of the many small business owners I meet:
Person grows up in a small town. Person moves to a city or urban area for college or work. Person yearns to return to the small-town life they love or return to raise their children in the same environment they grew up. However, a lack of job opportunities makes this American Dream unattainable.
While it’s heartening to see many of our region’s major metropolitan areas flourish in this unprecedented booming economy, we need to include investment in rural communities as well.
Forty-six million people live in rural America. And according to the US Census Bureau, the entire state outside of Anchorage is defined as rural—a substantial segment, to say the least.
Rural small businesses make a huge and critical impact on our state’s economy, the US economy, and even the global economy. For instance, of the top ten exports from Alaska, seven are seafood products.
While traditional rural sectors such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing employ a smaller percentage of the population than before, they continue to anchor the economies of more than half of the nation’s counties, including right here in our own backyard.
Our strength depends on our rural communities’ ability to thrive in the new global economy, build and attract an educated workforce, expand its population base, and use its diverse and abundant natural resources to provide food, fiber, forest products, energy and recreation.
Rural communities face economic challenges different from those in urban areas. Access to public transportation, housing, higher education and job training may limit rural areas’ abilities to thrive economically.
Resourcefulness, innovation, common-sense problem-solving and a reverence for hard work are familiar attributes of people in rural areas. They’re also the attributes of successful entrepreneurs.
At the US Small Business Administration, we see an opportunity to elevate rural economies through entrepreneurship and small business support. That is why the SBA teamed up with the USDA to empower rural America through our Rural Strong initiative.
We are putting special emphasis on supporting rural economies with additional outreach to educate rural communities about access to technical assistance, capital, exporting resources, Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones) and Opportunity Zones. The SBA is also offering fee relief on SBA-guaranteed 7(a) loans up to $150,000 in rural counties as defined by the US Census Bureau.
Like most things in life, we can’t do it alone. It takes all of us to invest in the communities that define our nation and many of our shared values.
By investing in rural small businesses, we invest in growing our local and national economy. We invest in strengthening our contribution to the global economy. And most important, we invest in our neighbors living the American Dream.
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Spreading the Word
When Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) first aired TV commercials featuring the tagline, “A Place That’s Always Been,” the reaction was surprising. Not only because they received numerous accolades and marketing awards for the campaign but because, at the time, it was rare for Alaska Native corporations to market themselves through the media.