Rural America is a vital part of the Nation's economy. Over two thousand counties in the United States (2,288, to be exact) are considered rural according to federal classification. They contain 83 percent of the Nation's land and are home to 21 percent (51 million) of the American people. In 1992, rural counties supplied 18 percent of the Nation's jobs and generated 14 percent of its earnings.
Rural people and communities are engaged in and depend upon a wide range of economic activities - from manufacturing to mining, from recreational services to agriculture and everything in between. Yet, rural residents are likely to have many of their needs - shopping, medical care, banking - at least partially met by providers in urban areas.
Rural America has changed dramatically over the last century - shifting from a dependence on farming, forestry, and mining to a wide diversity of economic activity. Improvements in communication and transportation between the cities and rural areas have reduced rural isolation and removed many of the cultural differences between them. Television, phone service, and transportation systems have helped bring rural and urban dwellers much closer together in terms of culture, information, and lifestyles.
As these changes took place, rural America became home to a smaller and smaller share of the Nation's population. And while it continues to provide most of the Nation's food and fiber, rural America has taken on additional roles, providing labor for industry, land for urban and suburban expansion, sites for storage of waste and hazardous activities, and natural settings for recreation and enjoyment.
The wide range of economic activities has resulted in counties that are predominantly agricultural, manufacturing, services, retirement-destination, federal lands, or persistent poverty as their economic basis. Each type of county has its own economic patterns and business opportunities. Consequently, there is no single defining description of what rural small business entails.
The primary common denominators for rural small businesse are a smaller population to draw on for employees or customers, greater distances to travel to obtain goods and supplies, and usually a lower cost for space and employee salaries in operating a business. Most importantly, many rural communities do not have the wide range of support services for businesses that are taken for granted in a large urban area. The internet is rapidly filling that gap, providing a wide range of resources to to support the development of business in nonurban areas.
These resources can be described in broad categories of:
- Individual State Initiatives
- Agricultural Resources
- Information on operating Bed and Breakfasts
- Information on Moving to a Rural Area