In recent years, changing world markets and policies have had major effects on the U.S. economy. With the loss of significant numbers of manufacturing and agriculture-related jobs, many parts of rural America have suffered severe economic downturns, and communities are looking for new ways to expand economic opportunities. Research shows that fostering the growth of small and home-based businesses can be an important economic development strategy.
According to the Small Business Administration, there are approximately 24 million small businesses in the U.S. “In 1997, the U.S. economy created nearly 3 million new jobs, with 6 out of 10 of the industries adding new jobs being small-business-dominated industries. Small firms hire a larger proportion of employees who are younger workers, older workers, women, or workers who prefer to work part-time. Small businesses also provide 67 percent of workers with their first jobs and initial on-the-job training in basic skills.”
Fostering small and home-based businesses is particularly important to rural communities, where small markets and limited availability of skilled labor may prevent the development of large-scale firms. Rural communities that promote new and innovative small enterprises can stimulate new employment opportunities and expand the local tax base, often contributing to each citizen’s quality of life.
In collaboration with land-grant universities and other partners, NIFA is helping rural entrepreneurs capitalize on local opportunities in three specific ways:
- Providing educational opportunities to improve business skills.,
- Helping entrepreneurs acquire sufficient assets to invest in new enterprises.
- Identifying, through research, specific areas where rural entrepreneurs need the most assistance.