Entrepreneurs, Take Note

The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, part of the 2008 Farm Bill, provides grants to new or existing rural small businesses.

The historic Texas Theater in Waxahachie, Texas, is just one of the small businesses downtown.

The historic Texas Theater in Waxahachie, Texas, is just one of the small businesses downtown.

Shutterstock.com/Lori Martin

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Have you ever dreamed about being your own boss? If you have, you know it takes more than just a creative idea to build a thriving small business. Entrepreneurs need accounting and marketing skills, a business plan, access to capital and a knack for customer relations. However, not everyone has access to the education needed to develop these skills.

Because of their size, many small businesses have the ability to innovate, adjust quickly to changing conditions, weather tough economic times, and take risks that larger businesses have difficulty taking. They also provide critical rural infrastructure such as gas stations, grocery and hardware stores, and medical clinics. Family farmers and ranchers often qualify as microentrepreneurs, too. Microenterprises account for 19.5 percent of the jobs in rural America, no small potatoes in these tough economic times.

To support small business in rural areas, the 2008 Farm Bill created the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program. The new program will be run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and will make grants to organizations that provide training, technical assistance, or make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses. There will be $4 million available for fiscal years 2009-2011 and $3 million for 2012.

Those eligible to apply for funding include nonprofit organizations, public institutions of higher education, and tribal governments not served by a nonprofit development organization. Applicant organizations do not need to be located in a rural area, but they must serve rural entrepreneurs. The funding includes money to provide both loans and training and technical assistance for microentrepreneurs. As defined in the Farm Bill, a microenterprise has 10 or fewer employees.

The Center for Rural Affairs worked hard to ensure funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program and hopes to spread the word so that many qualified organizations apply.

For the most up-to-date information, see  the article or contact Steph Larsen, by e-mail or by phone at 402-687-2103, extension 1014, to be added to the listserv about the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program.

As a side note, the Rural Energy for America Program also funds energy efficiency and renewable energy projects owned by rural small businesses. Learn more at the website.