Rural sourcing is a trend I love. It leverages technology to bring more high tech, higher paying jobs to rural areas. But it’s a small trend, and I’d love to see it spread to more places and more people.
What does a small town need to do to support rural sourcing? How can you get it going in your town?
Rural sourcing relies on three elements: a well trained technical workforce, high speed internet connection, and an entrepreneur friendly community.
Improve Your Workforce
|Training in tech topics is key to|
supporting rural sourcing
Most small towns aren’t well-supplied with the kind of IT, programming, and general high-tech workers that are needed for rural sourcing. What can you do about it? Here are some ideas, from easiest to most involved.
A. Find out what tech skills people have in your area. Do a survey, or look around for an existing labor survey. Check your state Department of Labor, because they may have done this already.
B. Partner with your local educational institutions. What high tech training do they offer? Do they cooperate with each other? Can the community college partner with the high school to work on skills?
C. Involve your workforce development board. It has the ability to influence change in local policies that affect the quality of your workforce. No matter where you are, there is a workforce development board that covers you. Start by figuring out where your state board is (maybe your Commerce Department, maybe Labor). Then find your local board. Now, these local boards are usually large and relatively unwieldy, but they have some big advantages. The majority of members are private employers, so business has a strong voice. The rest of the members bring together all the players in the workforce field, including education and government agencies in the field. The purpose of the board is to develop your local workforce to meet employers’ needs, so it can be a powerful tool.
Increase Your High Speed Internet
Some small towns are blessed with excellent high speed connections, and some are not. If you are not, you’ve got to get connected before you can hope to attract business this way.
A. Find out what you’ve got now. You might be surprised to find that you have more coverage than you think. Check with cable as well as phone providers. Do some searching. A bank in my community runs a radio signal wireless internet service because they needed to create it for their local branches. You might find similar unexpected services.
B. Talk to your existing communications companies. Find out when they plan to connect you and how. See what it would take to get it done sooner.
C. Check in with state or regional broadband initiatives. See who else is working on this issue, and partner up.
Be More Entrepreneur Friendly
You can either grow your own, or try to attract a branch of an existing firm. Either way, you need a welcoming business climate, one that supports entrepreneurs. The best source on this subject is Dave Shideler. Here are his three actions steps:
A. Appreciate your entrepreneurs.
- Feature them in the local paper.
- Pass city council resolutions supporting entrepreneurs.
- Integrate entrepreneurship into local economic development plans.
- Give Chamber of Commerce awards.
B. Use partnership, collaboration and cooperation.
- Share infrastructure with neighboring communities such as sharing economic data, or extending incubators across borders.
- Utilize existing low-cost or free services including sba.gov, energizingentrepreneurs.org, extension.org/entreprenership.
- Leverage local resources, including the school system, library, county extension, career tech, and community colleges. Ponca City, Oklahoma, is doing youth entrepreneurship projects through their alternative schools. (Remember that many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs were failures in traditional schools.) Do a special business training program with the library. Promote the data services that are available.
C. Promote socializing.
- Establish networks and organize interest groups.
- Use technology: publish blogs about your place, participate in social networking (facebook, linkedin), social bookmarking and list making.
- Listen to your entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Read more good stuff from Shideler in Building Entrepreneur Friendly Communities.
Target Rural Sourcing
Those three elements (workforce, internet, and entrepreneurs) come together to create rural sourcing firms. You would also be wise to learn everything you can about rural sourcing. Here are some resources to help with that.
- Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal published a useful article, Building IT Capabilities in Rural America. It’s long and dry, but has useful info.
- Rural America OnShore Outsourcing has a collection of whitepapers, webinars and other educational materials about onshoring.
- Cross USA has several white papers on rural sourcing on their news page.
- Cross USA’s John Beesley has a LinkedIn group for Alternatives to Off-Shore.
- Rural Sourcing, Inc., offers a presentation, though it would be better with some context or speaker’s notes. You’ll find it under Insights on the Rural Sourcing, Inc., homepage.
I know a few rural sourcing executives who read Small Biz Survival, so I hope you’ll chime in with any thoughts about how a community can attract or grow rural sourcing ability.
- About the Author
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.