Rethinking rural economic development

PB-logoHere is my April Management Matters column in Prairie Business Magazine

In February, the Obama administration announced the “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative. Many of the most important details of the program remain a mystery; nevertheless, the initiative seems to be reinvigorating a crucial and spirited dialog. The initiative is good news, and this is especially true for many of you, who live and work in communities that should benefit from Made in Rural America.

For many years China, and to a lesser degree India, have been exporting products to meet the needs and wants of middle-class Americans. Our so-called disposable income has been lining the Chinese coffers. Perhaps it is time for rural America to turn the table and start capturing the disposable income of middle-class Chinese and Indians, now totaling at least 500 million people.

Gone are the days where it takes a Fortune 100 multinational company to compete in the international environment. One of the real, but often overlooked, benefits of globalization is that innovative small businesses or even creative individuals can achieve global greatness while remaining at home on the prairie.

The Made in Rural America program may be the catalyst for many rural entrepreneurs to learn about the tremendous export opportunities of the coming years. Hopefully, it will also be a call to action for regional venture capitalists and business angels to invest in prairie entrepreneurs. Let’s hope the government creates the environment for this dialog, facilitates the necessary relationship building, eliminates unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles, and fully supports the globalization efforts of rural Americans.