Rural Microenterprise Development

There is a developing broad agreement among researchers, policy advocates and others that the traditional economic development models of industrial and business recruitment simply do not meet the needs of rural communities.

Related Publications and Links

Rural Microentrepreneur Program: How to apply and what to expect.

Rural Microentrepreneur Factsheet: A program fact sheet.

Comments to the USDA on the Rural Microentrepreneur Program: Center for Rural Affairs Comments

Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise Tax Credit Act: State of Nebraska fact sheet.

Rural Development and the 2007 Farm Bill: Analysis and proposals for the farm bill.

Testimony to U.S. Senate
on Rural Microenterprise Development in the 2007 Farm Bill: Statement of Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs to the Senate Agriculture Committee Rural Development Hearing.

Oversubsidizing and Underinvesting: An Analysis of USDA Farm Program Payments and Rural Development Funding in Low Population Growth Rural Communities.

Wealth Building in Rural America: Programs, Policies, Research: Presented at the Assets and Opportunities: Growing Wealth, Reducing Poverty and Achieving Equity in Rural America conference.


Entrepreneurship has been lifted up as an economic development model that will better serve rural people and rural places. For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City states that, "Rural policymakers, who once followed traditional strategies of recruiting manufacturers that export low-value products, have realized that entrepreneurs can generate new economic value for their communities. Entrepreneurs add jobs, raise incomes, create wealth, improve the quality of life of citizens and help rural communities operate in the global economy." Federal rural policy must begin to recognize the importance of entrepreneurship as a rural development strategy and provide the resources necessary for rural people and rural communities to leverage the spirit, creativity and opportunities entrepreneurship creates.

Asset- and wealth-building strategies are equally important. Greater income alone cannot lead to economic well-being for individuals and families; asset- and wealth-building through home ownership, business ownership or enhanced education lead to important long-term psychological and social effects that cannot be achieved by simply increasing income. While income is an important factor, income can be achieved nearly anywhere in varying degrees. Assets like businesses a bond one to a place and help to build sustainable communities. A commitment to rural asset- and wealth-building strategies like microenterprise development can lead to a stronger individuals, families and communities.

Agriculturally-based entrepreneurship and innovation must also continue to play a vital role in rural development policy and can be easily linked to microenterprise development. Recent efforts on "regional flavor" and agri-tourism demonstrate the connection in rural areas. Agriculturally-based entrepreneurship can contribute to the creation of jobs and businesses in rural communities and to the alleviation of poverty in the same communities. Programs that promote a new generation of farmers and ranchers and which provide incentives for entry into agriculture also benefit the development of rural communities and their institutions. Beginning farmer and rancher programs also provide opportunities for the advancement of agriculturally-based enterprises among a new generation of rural entrepreneurs.
Rural Main Street

Many rural communities have self-employment and small business ownership rates many times greater than urban areas.Small businesses are also the job creators in much of rural America. In the Great Plains region, for example, nearly 70 percent of recent job growth came from non-farm proprietorships. To allow for continued creation and expansion of rural businesses and employment opportunities resources to rural small business development must be enhanced.

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