Making Entrepreneurship Accessible in Rural America

1. Need: Rural Entrepreneurship is Declining, and it Matters

The Decline in Rural Entrepreneurship Has More than Economic Impact

Our economy is missing out on untapped potential.

When rural entrepreneurs can’t access what they need to start new businesses, the communities in which they live miss out, often without even knowing it.

Would-be jobs just aren’t created. More diverse career opportunities never materialize. Young professionals move away rather than plant roots.

It’s a nationwide issue that has a significant impact on the economic prosperity and future of our small towns, the people who live there, and our country as a whole.

More than just economic loss.

While the impact on the community and the individuals who remain is often reported in economic terms of how many jobs have been lost, how many people have moved away, total family income, it is more than just economic.

  • For those who remain, every day they see boarded-up downtown stores and abandoned houses.
  • They are traveling farther and farther from home just to pick up groceries, purchase clothes, and secure jobs.
  • Access to healthcare, transportation, and childcare dwindles and becomes more costly, or non-existent.
  • Many have family in the area, own houses, or prefer to live in less populated areas, and others simply don’t have the means to relocate.

The loss of disbelief.

Over time many of the individuals living in these declining rural communities who once dreamed of starting their own business, begin to turn away from entrepreneurship as the hurdles and barriers seemed insurmountable.

Others who grew up in these towns and experienced years of economic hardship and growing barriers to economic prosperity, can begin to believe that entrepreneurship and business ownership is unattainable for them.

This not only impacts their aspirations and lives, but it has a significant impact on economic prosperity of the communities in which they live.


Small businesses account for 99% of all businesses and employ nearly half of the U.S. workforce, accounting for more than 60% of the private sector’s net new jobs. (2022, Forbes, Small Business Statistics of 2023).

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Dive deeper into why rural entrepreneurship is declining and why it matters.

Learn more about the University’s commitment to support economic development across the commonwealth.