By Elisha Greeley Smith
In the last ten years, half of all the jobs created in this country were created in firms with five or fewer employees. These firms, microenterprises, have been the real engine of economic growth in America. And nowhere is that more true than in rural communities.
Too often, federal and state governments have not recognized the importance of microenterprise development as an economic development tool, especially for rural communities. However, progress has been made in Nebraska in recent years.
In 2005, working with rural Nebraska citizens and communities, the Rural Development Commission and key leaders, we convinced the Legislature to double the funding for small business development; establish entrepreneurial development grants for rural communities; and extend tax incentives to the smallest businesses. Our Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) helped over 1000 rural small businesses with loans, technical assistance or training.
The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) and Citigroup also recognize the importance of microenterprise development in rural America. That’s why, for the second year in a row, they have selected the Center for Rural Affairs’ Women’s Business Center as one of 15 local partners throughout the country. Through this program, REAP will provide cash equity awards from $500 to $2500 to women microentrepreneurs in rural Nebraska communities. This outstanding program is designed to provide low and moderate income women microentrepreneurs the opportunity to achieve greater business success as well as financial freedom and self sufficiency by providing cash awards that will have a significant impact on the development of their business and on their communities.
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