Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of people have moved to rural America seeking to establish a livelihood fueled by entrepreneurship. In fact, according to the U.S. …
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of people have moved to rural America seeking to establish a livelihood fueled by entrepreneurship. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in July 2020 alone more than 550,000 new businesses were established in rural areas nationwide — which is a 95% increase over the previous year. The pandemic may have forever changed the way we all do business, but the one constant that has not changed is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) commitment to helping entrepreneurs access the resources they require to make their business dreams a reality.
Much of the agency’s work nationwide over the last 18 months has been to help businesses survive the pandemic with programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Restaurant Revitalization Fund, COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), and Shuttered Venues Operator Grants. Many main street businesses, agricultural entities, and non-profit organizations in rural communities utilized these programs to retain employees and pay everyday expenses.
Take Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo, for example. In 2008, Karen Hostetler created a business that ballooned into the largest full-service spinning mill west of the Mississippi. Started in a community of under 5,000 people, Hostetler fashioned a footprint locally and nationally — creating jobs at home while exporting products across the world. The mill experienced COVID-19-related setbacks in 2020 with lost customers and business uncertainty. With help from the PPP, the owners were able to maintain their workforce and focus additional efforts on social media advertising.
Stories like this reverberate across rural America. More than 2.5 million rural small business owners took part in the PPP, and many are now working through the forgiveness process with local lenders. Businesses that received a PPP loan under $150,000, and have not yet submitted forgiveness applications, should check with their lender to see if they are eligible to use the SBA’s new Direct Forgiveness Portal, a streamlined tool that can simplify the loan forgiveness process.
Many entrepreneurs are also deciding that now is the time to start or expand their business but need help accessing capital. For these entrepreneurs, an SBA guaranteed loan might be the right fit. These loans, made by SBA’s extensive network of participating lenders, can be used to provide long- and short-term working capital, purchase equipment, machinery, or supplies, buy real estate, establish a new business, expand an existing business or refinance existing business debt.
Small business owners should know that the COVID EIDL Program can assist them with their cash flow challenges. This program remains available to small businesses, including agricultural businesses and nonprofit organizations, until Dec. 31. Recently, the dollar limit on these loans was raised to $2 million.
Entrepreneurs needing assistance with business counseling, preparing a business plan, and/or creating financial projections should work with their local SBA resource partner such as a Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center, or local SCORE chapter. Most of these business development resources have locations within rural parts of your state.
Regardless of your business’ location or community size, the SBA remains steadfast in helping you secure the capital and training resources you need to strengthen your business. For further assistance, please connect with your local SBA district office or SBA Resource Partner by visiting www.sba.gov .
(Amy Lea is the SBA’s acting regional administrator and Wyoming District Director. As district director, Lea oversees all of the agency’s programs and services across the state. She is based in Casper.)