Rural Small Businesses Seek Talent, Technology to Succeed in Digital Age
Rural entrepreneurs are struggling to access capital, high-speed internet and quality workers, according to new survey data from SCORE, mentors to America’s small businesses and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
SCORE’s Fall 2022 Megaphone of Main Street: The Small Business Rural/Urban Divide surveyed more than 3,000 entrepreneurs and discovered that population shifts away from rural areas are challenging small business owners in desperate need of reliable talent and technology. Specifically.
Rising fuel costs (49.3%), slowing customer spending (48.6%), tight marketing budgets (47.6%) and a limited local customer base (34.6%) are their most vexing customer-related challenges.
Rural businesses are hurting for workers and are 26% more likely to have trouble finding qualified employees.
Twice as many rural entrepreneurs (19.2%) compared to non-rural entrepreneurs (9%) struggle with access to broadband/high-speed internet, making it harder for them to conduct business, reach customers and grow.
The technology gap between rural and non-rural businesses persists.
Rural entrepreneurs are twice as likely as non-rural entrepreneurs (19.2% vs. 9%) to cite lack of broadband/high-speed internet access as a technology challenge. Small businesses in both rural and non-rural areas say they’re challenged by a lack of technological knowledge or assistance.
“As a small business owner in a rural area of Erie County in Western New York, it has been challenging over the last decade — and even more so currently – to attract staff, being at least a 30 minute drive from the city of Buffalo and the surrounding suburbs,” said Kerry Planck of Alpine Made LLC in South Wales, N.Y. “My latest long-term employee who lives 30+ miles away recently quit, due in part to the long commuting distance and higher gas prices. I generally give six month raises to my employees, however they have not kept up with current inflation levels.”
Planck has worked with SCORE mentor David Bunis for 10 years, most recently on staffing retention issues. “I was advised by SCORE to work with local colleges to recruit paid student interns,” said Planck. “This has helped me greatly throughout the last two years.”
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SCORE provides tangible solutions for rural entrepreneurs.
In response to rural small business challenges, SCORE offers a centralized resource hub, SCORE for Rural Entrepreneurs. “Starting and growing a successful small business can be more difficult in rural America, but it can also be more impactful,” said SCORE Vice President of External Relations Betsy Dougert. “When rural small businesses thrive, that success ripples out to infuse rural towns and communities with new jobs, innovation and productivity.”
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