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Embrace the rural…

Silicon Prairie News writes most of its stories about companies from cities or small towns, rarely do we write articles about rural areas. Being in the Midwest, we strongly believe in rural America. As such, we watch stories in rural America closely. However, writing stories regularly about the rural parts of our states can be difficult.

That being said, throughout the year we have kept an eye on the rural parts of our states. Here are some of our favorite stories in bullet form:

• CoSchedule out of Bismarck was ranked in the top 200 for the second straight year in the Inc. 5000. This company provides marketing content calendars. It employs more than 60 in North Dakota.

• Ord, Nebraska is a model community for entrepreneurship. With fewer than 2500 residents, the community continues to turn heads with population growth, new startups, and a cool small-town vibe.

• Small precision manufacturing continues to drive jobs in rural areas, such as Ideal Industries in Vinton, Iowa. These types of manufacturers provide jobs for a broad swath of the region, including highly technical work.

• Exits of traditional companies such as Schafer Systems which makes gambling products. The company is headquartered in Adair, Iowa – population under 800.

• Transportation, logistics, and robotics companies including traditional transport of grain, livestock, and goods, but also including growing small or niche manufacturing businesses. For example, Laurie, MO is home to AOK RVs and multiple communities have small drone manufacturing or service businesses.

These types of stories represent sunshine in many rural communities in the Midwest. Technology is creating jobs and opportunities in small towns, not just big cities.

Sadly, the national media is almost exclusively focused on the rural versus urban divide, implying a lack of technology and innovation in rural America. We know this is not true. As we look at rural stories, we see communities with strong backbones that have the ability to grow along with the technical revolutions and know-how.

Some of the key ingredients for this continued growth include:

1. Strong entrepreneurs that embrace the challenges faced by rural companies. Many of the companies above target rural customers and rural problems. Bird scooters are unlikely to be discovered and implemented by a rural community.

2. The ability to get small amounts of prototype financing. Many states have created mechanisms to test and build prototypes.

3. Target industries and customers with which the region (possibly beyond the individual town) good connections.

4. Identify the best entrepreneurial stories from your region and area – and send them to places, such as Silicon Prairie News, where we tell these stories. Focus is important – not every startup is a great story…yet.

5. Connect with customers and talent across the broader region – both the Silicon Prairie and possibly just your region of your state, the Lakes Region of Iowa, for example. Having meetups between Spencer, Storm Lake, and Arnold’s Park is a way to build stronger connections not just in your region, but also potentially through those connections to other regions.
Most rural communities have these elements already present. Continuing to build on these is critical for long-term growth and success. Now that many eyes have turned to rural America, it appears that the Silicon Prairie region has an opportunity to tell a brighter story.

For example, every politician – local, state, and federal – is seeking ways to improve economic development in rural areas. Entrepreneurship is the answer. Most areas will not recruit their way out of job loss. Instead, building new companies and new jobs is the key. Thus, now is a good time for rural areas, towns, and regions to be focused on finding entrepreneurs and telling their best stories. Looking around the region, we know they are out there.

We look forward to telling more success stories in 2019.

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