When it comes to news, most small business updates are centered around organizations located in large cities or within industries utilizing mobile or desktop applications. Although it is true, as a whole the majority of businesses are located in these areas, it is crucial for the success of our nation that we also give as much time and information to small businesses located in our rural communities as well. Alot of times these organizations include the backbone of America, that is citizens who need a helping hand in growing their middle town operations.
So, let’s talk Nebraska, and let’s discuss the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP).
REAP is “a program under the Center for Rural Affairs” and has “helped Nebraska small business owners get off the ground since 1990. Every two years since 2007, REAP has conducted a Small Business Needs Assessment so it can better tailor its services.” In preparation for its March 2017 update, a survey went out to small businesses to help develop services for the organizations who will need them.
“In the latest assessment, which was released Monday, small business owners across the state agreed on a few necessities: capital, employees and marketing and advertising assistance.”:
1) Capital: Of the 405 respondents, almost 30% said they would need microloans or loans of less than $50,000 to help start their business. Around 19.2% gave a number of higher than $300,000. The last number is in large part due to federal regulations, rising healthcare cost, high turnover rates, low bank loan availability and poor infrastructure for alternative lenders such as venture capitalists. Jeff Reynolds, REAP program director “said five years ago REAP granted 60 microloans to small businesses. That number climbed to 123 loans granted in 2016.”
2) Employees: As mentioned above, high turnover rates are raising costs and creating a need for loan dollars. Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce President K.C. Belitz explains that the “cost stems from the necessary time to train someone for their position.” Belitz further explains that “in a market with a low unemployment rate, such as Columbus, there’s a higher risk that an employee will leave after a company has invested in training them.”
3: Marketing & Advertising: Lastly, with the changing trend of marketing and advertising tools, many rural area natives need help in utilizing technology to connect with potential customers. Although there are many options available, the costs of professional marketing agencies are sometimes not affordable. “There’s a lot of people like me out there that need to be trained in how to do marketing on the internet,” said Reynolds. “And it’s not just enough to know how to do it. You need to have people around you that are proficient in that topic"
According to the Columbus Telegram, after “each survey, the REAP team goes on a retreat to work through a two-year plan that will take into consideration the needs given in the survey. The 2017 retreat will be in early March, after which the next two-year plan will be announced.”