Sunday, June 14, 2009

Recruiting rural entrepreneurs is just as important as attracting larger employers, expert advises

If there’s a debate in your town about whether to emphasize recruitment of large employers or smaller entrepreneurs, don’t waste time on the debate; do both, writes Timothy Collins, assistant director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. In an article for the Daily Yonder, Collins sides with Ed Bee, president of Taimerica Management Co., who wrote in an article for the Economic Development Journal that there is a need to give up on “one-size-fits-all” approaches.

Although disparities still exist in poor regions like Appalachia, some places have proven that commericial and entrepreneurial success is possible. Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Ky., has decreased poverty and increased economic activity in much of the state since 1985. Yonder photographer/co-editor Bill Bishop's entrepreneurial example is Larry, Darrell & Darrell’s barbecue restaurant in Mayfield, Ky., host to sell-out lunch crowds. (Photo: James Stovall displays a rack of pork ribs. Yummmm.)

“The push for entrepreneurial development emerged in the 1980s as both a reaction to protracted recession and an alternative to faulty business-attraction strategies that were not meeting the needs of states and their inner cities, smaller towns, and citizens,” Collins writes. But that recession, which reduced rural manufacturing jobs and lowered standards of living, also left such places less appealing to businesses. Rural entrepreneurship can provdie a foundation for such areas to fall back on.

The key, Collins says, is balance between recruting industry and the sort of entrepreneurship that creates a strong, business-owning middle class. Promoting entrepreneurship moves a community toward a more balanced economy. “Towns need the amenities of limited-growth, local entrepreneurs before they can even dream of attracting new firms of any size,” Collins writes. “Rural entrepreneurship is more than grasping at straws. A business-owning middle class is essential to rural sustainability.” (Read more)

No comments: