Kick-starting Main Street economies

Rural America is open for business. That is the message from small business leaders as they update Congress on what they need to survive the pandemic and thrive.

Lawmakers explore ways to kick-start Main Street economies as they recover from the global pandemic. One business leader says that economic injury loans and payroll protection are critical federal programs.

Jason Duff, Small Nation founder, states, “While the PPP program and EIDL programs provided much needed relief to many businesses, there is still so many micro-businesses who have been left out. These micro-businesses need access to capital to sustain, grow, and expand their businesses. For example, small businesses need a long-term, recovery loan program with low interest rates and favorable payment terms.”

He says that getting business back to work is a priority for rural America.

“I think the work that this committee is doing, and all of here today need to be focusing on the health crisis related to the economy and how we can get people safely back to work and businesses safely reopened,” he notes.

Even during challenging times, small businesses are working hard to serve their rural communities.

Looking ahead to the future, the Center for Rural Innovation says that closing the digital divide is an important starting point for creating jobs. “For rural communities to thrive they must participate in the digital economy. Building digital economies in rural communities will require scalable tech start-ups that can create digital jobs in rural places,” the Center’s Mark Rembert states.

The Small Business Innovation Research Program offers grants to help commercialize technology, but Rembert says the program could be doing more: “The SBIR program shows that federal funding alone is not enough, without technical assistance to promote access in rural areas. Programs aimed at scalable entrepreneurship are likely to end up concentrated in areas where tech jobs already exist.”

The latest report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that 90 percent of small businesses are open in some capacity, but 65 percent remain concerned about a second wave of the virus.

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