BUSINESS AND ECONOMY IN SMALL TOWNS
A COMING TREND?
Small towns and communities face their own, although not necessarily unique, economic challenges. While there are fewer competitors, there is a smaller customer base which can lead to reluctance on the part of large companies to locate in those areas. One small town in Colorado has turned to a heretofore unorthodox way to boost their economy. Their need; Walsenburg is a former coal mining town that never recovered when the mines closed in the 1960s and its population has dropped to fewer than 3,000 residents. 20% of Huerfano County, which is home to Walsenburg, lives below poverty level. Their solution; the town of Walsenburg recently formally closed a $1.33 million deal with a developer to build a 332-acre site for cannabis growing, processing and distribution. The finished marijuana will be trucked 160 miles north to consumers in Denver. The trend; currently four states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana. Many other states and cities have various medical and decriminalization statutes in place. In January, a report from the ArcView Group discussed in a Huffington Post article called legalized marijuana the fastest growing industry in the country. Is this a wave of the future, particularly for economically stressed areas?
SMALL TOWN GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING
Don’t have the option of growing and distributing marijuana. How about government contracting? One small town has been successful in building their economic base by contracting with the Federal Government. Newport, Washington, population of a little over 2100, is about an hour north of Spokane on the Washington-Idaho border. According to Greater Spokane Incorporated, over 400 government contracts worth almost $10 million and supporting approximately 200 total jobs have been awarded to businesses in Newport since 2004. The majority of the contracts have come from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior. According to the Small Business Administration Small Business Database, there are 26 small business government contractors registered in Pend Oreille County where Newport is located.
SMALL TOWN BUSINESSES
To help small town businesses grow, according to Becky McCray, founder and publisher of Small Biz Survival, a rural small business blog, the best small town business ideas fill empty buildings. For example, look at the retail gaps and see what your town doesn’t have. You could also divide a building so that multiple businesses could use the same space or so that independent professionals such as accountants or tax professionals have a place to work. Take a look at her article for ideas on using empty buildings to help grow business.
Finally, if you are a hunter or have any type of fire arms around, make sure you take safety lessons or at least give your dog shooting lessons. Allie Carter of Avilla, Indian was wounded during a waterfowl hunt when her 11-year old chocolate Labrador stepped on the gun causing it to discharge. The 12-gauge shotgun was lying on the ground and the safety was not on. The woman was shot in the left foot and was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries before being released. The dog’s name? Trigger.