Small businesses in rural towns are affected by the global economy, much like business in urban areas. Differences abound, however, because when the dollar is strong abroad, domestic farming communities that make up the majority of rural town populations suffer. In 2015, for example, agricultural exports were less competitive overseas as big business thrived. At the same time, smart investors seize opportunities in rural areas and find success through small businesses such as organic farming, real estate, tourism and Internet-based companies.
Bring in the Tourists
As farm-to-table, heritage and historical interest grows around the country, savvy rural communities can take advantage of the trends and provide services and events attractive to the tourism market. And it could pay off big time. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, travelers interested in history tend to stay in an area longer and spend more than other tourist groups. Small business options that benefit from heritage tourism include bed and breakfasts, restaurants serving local fare, community-sponsored festivals and gift shops.
Property Values Offer Opportunities
While the price of farmland continues to decline, according to the Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index, rents continue to rise. Real estate agents looking to start a small agency in rural towns would do well to tap into the cash-strapped farming community to broker rental deals and split property into more manageable parcels for rent. Credit for rental property primarily is supported through rural Farm Credit Bureaus rather than big banks.
Get Online and Prosper
As broadband makes its way through the country, lower rental prices and lower wages make small towns ideal for Internet based small businesses. Whether you run an IT service from your home in a small rural town, or open a slightly larger IT service with a storefront and employees, you can find opportunities to thrive. As an example, the flourishing heritage tourism community in small rural areas needs to expand its online presence to draw visitors. A home-based small business that builds websites and manages marketing for those companies is ideal for someone local who can talk in-person with clients and walk them through the online options available for their businesses.
Grow Your Garden and Your Bank Balance
Take advantage of the big farm breakdowns and grab yourself a piece of property to join the organic small farm movement. This could be an especially lucrative small business if your rural town is within driving distance of a larger urban area that’s hungry for fresh, local organic food. The movement is bursting and you can sell your goods directly to local restaurants and to consumers through roadside stands and tailgate markets that are popping up across the country in droves. Health conscious consumers are looking for organic vegetables, locally sourced meat, eggs and milk.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."