Small towns: lure your kids home to launch a start-up

Not long ago, I stumbled across The Daily Yonder, an excellent website that focuses on rural economic and social issues (try their Weekly Yonder email to get a taste). This week, they featured an inspiring interview with Maury Forman, Senior Manager for Rural Strategies and Entrepreneurship for the Washington State Department of Commerce, who urges small towns and cities to cultivate an entrepreneurial culture that can entice young and middle-aged kids who left town to return to start small businesses. In contrast to the concern about “brain drain” in small towns, he says, “Let kids get out and explore. People keep saying we want to keep our kids after high school. I think we should let them go out and explore new ideas, new things, and then come back educated and experienced, so that they can start a business, and create new jobs, and live in healthier communities.”

Forman enthuses:

I actually think it’s easier to do economic development in rural areas than it is in big cities. …. When you have small successes in rural, they’re big successes; the thrill is so much bigger there than it is if Seattle hires 10 employees. It’s going to make the newspaper in a rural community. I find rural communities to be easier to work with, more fun to work with, they take life a little less seriously.

Forman has also collaborated with a colleague to put together one of the best concise primers on raising capital that we’ve seen, and they’re giving it away free online. Startup Wisdom: 27 Strategies for Raising Business Capital offers succinct 2 or 3 page overviews of everything from crowdfunding to local investing clubs to grants (while also making nods to the lottery and even lemonade stands!). It won’t get you all the way to being funded, but it’s a perfect first read to help you narrow down the avenues you want to investigate further. They put this booklet together after finding that many potential rural entrepreneurs were struggling with Step 1, since “banks were not loaning to people in order to get businesses started. They didn’t like the idea. It was a risk. The whole bank idea of making bank loans just wasn’t in the banks’ interest, especially in micro-loans. That’s really what many small communities are looking for, probably under $50,000.”

Forman is offering just the kind of practical, localized guidance that can invigorate the regional vitality that is essential to the flourishing resilient economies and social networks that we envision in The Resilient Investor.  Here’s to both local communities and early- to mid-career rural expatriates taking this advice to heart!

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    Rocky Wade

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    Once again, Maury challenges the conventional wisdom of traditional economic development and smashed a myth of rural development to show that human captivity, the creativity inherent in local folk, especially young folk, are more important than fiscal capital. Money will come when great ideas are unleashed. Maury keeps hope alive……

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