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Rural Business HQ
Providing news, information and support for all those involved in the essential work of rural business.
Sep 13, 2021
Episode 39: Rural Commercial Real Estate
A rural developer is building a town square from scratch in the small town of Mapleton, North Dakota. Justin Forde recently completed the first building in the Maple River Town Square development. The six-acre project is selling commercial space to businesses looking to serve the town, which has seen its population double over the last decade, according to Inforum.com. In this episode of the Rural Business Show, Justin talks about what he likes about doing business in a rural setting and why he saw this project as a good investment. We discuss some of the challenges of commercial real estate development in small towns and steps rural communities can take to improve their Main Streets with new businesses and amenities.
Jul 20, 2021
Episode 38: Community Heart & Soul
Community Heart & Soul is a resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town in identifying what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it. Developed and field-tested over a decade in partnership with more than 90 small cities and towns across America, Community Heart & Soul is a proven process for engaging a community in shaping its future. Jane Lafleur is the senior director of market development at Community Heart and Soul. In this episode of the Rural Business Show, Lafleur shares why it’s important to bring a rural community together to “chart a course forward.” We discuss what it takes to help community members find common ground. And Lafleur talks about how rural stakeholders can turn plans into meaningful action.
May 10, 2021
Episode 37: Rural Grocery Initiative
In 2006, Kansas State held listening sessions across the state aimed at identifying challenges facing rural communities. During these sessions, the need to support rural grocery stores rose to the top. Supporting rural grocery stores is important because they: * Provide jobs and contribute to the local tax base. * Act as community hubs for residents to gather and connect. * Serve as essential sources for healthy food options. The Rural Grocery Initiative (RGI) was formed at K-State to provide resources to help sustain and enhance independently-owned rural grocery stores. The initiative assists communities and citizens to strengthen rural grocery operations and improve access to healthy foods. Rial Carver is a Program Manager for the Rural Grocery Initiative and Kansas Healthy Food Initiative. She is also an Extension Specialist for K-State Research and Extension with a focus on rural and healthy food access initiatives. In this episode of the Rural Business Show, Carver talks about the Rural Grocery Initiative, and why this effort is important to her. She discusses her main concerns for rural grocery stores and what she’s optimistic about. We talk about the impacts grocery stores have on rural communities and Carver shares some specific success stories that show a variety of ways a rural grocery business can be successful.
Apr 15, 2021
Episode 36: The Future of Rural Work
Matt Dunne is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI). The Center is bringing together a network of innovation hubs across rural America through a team of experts. The organization focuses on digital economic development, rural opportunity zones, entrepreneurial investment, and broadband expansion. Dunne has an extensive background in rural economic development while maintaining his rural lifestyle on his family farm in Vermont - from serving 11 years in the Vermont House and Senate, growing a software company to over 100 people to working under President Clinton as director of AmeriCorps*VISTA and heading Google’s Community Affairs division where he was involved in a variety of rural initiatives. In this episode of the rural business show, Dunne talks about why he became involved in rural economic development and what opportunities he is most enthusiastic about today. We discuss how the pandemic has affected rural economies, and what we should understand about the "future of work". He also shares what resources CORI provides to rural communities and suggests the first steps a rural community should take to strengthen its economy.
Feb 5, 2021
Episode 35: Resilient Strategies for Rural Economies
Is the common view of rural America outdated? Are the strategies needed to build today’s rural economies actually being implemented? Hanna Love, with the Brookings Institution and Mike Powe, with the National Main Street Center, recently collaborated on a five-part research series on rural revitalization. They argue that our attention should not be focused on an inaccurate image of rural America, but rather on understanding, sustaining, and investing in the hyperlocal strategies already working in a lot of areas. In this episode of the rural business show, Hanna and Mike discuss their in-depth, on-the-ground research in three rural communities across the U.S. and highlight the place-based strategies they see as vital to rural economic success.
Oct 8, 2020
Episode 34: Building Possibility
Deb Brown offers programs on various small-town challenges and has traveled extensively through rural America helping communities on their path to vitality. Her keynotes, webinars and workshops help small towns figure out what to do with empty buildings, improve marketing and economic development, and overall become more innovative and idea-friendly. She has helped all kinds of rural communities and the organizations that serve them. Brown is also the co-founder of www.saveyour.town along with Becky McCray. They offer practical advice on how to shape a brighter future for small towns. On this episode of the Rural Business Show, Brown talks about why she cares about small towns and how she became an expert voice in rural business. She shares experiences she's had working with rural communities - the successes, the challenges and what she's learned. We discuss why trying to get the big company to move into a town is often the wrong strategy and the importance of supporting home-grown entrepreneurs. Brown also discusses how to overcome negativity and find new ways to get the community involved outside of the typical committee model.
Sep 18, 2020
Episode 33: Overcoming Challenges in Rural Healthcare
Michelle Rathman is the founder of Impact! Communications based in Geneva, Illinois. She started her business in 1989 as a Chicago-area public relations, advertising, and marketing firm. The company represented clients from a variety of industries and provided high-level PR services. This included booking published authors on national television shows, like the Oprah Winfrey Show. A stage 3 cancer diagnosis in 1996 and the ensuing successful battle with the disease, provided her first-hand experience with the healthcare system. This generated a desire to change the focus of her business on improving healthcare. Since that time, Michelle has worked with medical organizations across the country, including Rural Health Clinics, State Offices of Rural Health, and Critical Access Hospitals (CAH). Her company has designed, structured, and facilitated hundreds of strategic partnerships and alliances between hospitals and their stakeholders. Michelle’s work in rural healthcare led to an invitation to become the third host of the Rural Matters podcast. This podcast covers issues in rural health, education, and economic development, bringing in guests who are immersed in improving outcomes for rural communities. In this episode of the Rural Business Show, Michelle Rathman talks about her journey and why she is so passionate about rural areas. She discusses how her battle with cancer led to deep soul searching and the life-changing decision to change direction. We talk about why some rural hospitals are doing well, while others are struggling or closing and how the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges to rural areas. We discuss whether policymakers really understand the needs in rural communities and how she works to push policy decisions that close disparities. Finally, Michelle shares advice on how to be successful in a rural business setting.
Jul 23, 2020
Episode 32: TROTFITNESS
Nisan Trotter is an entrepreneur, public speaker, author and owner of TROTFITNESS in Lewisburg, Penn. (population: 5,730). Trotter grew up in Silverhill, Ala. (population: 997), where he was brought up by a loving support group of family and friends. He said he cut his teeth on the pews of the local church and learned about hard work early on, citing his mother and grandfather as two important examples in his formative years. As a Black person growing up in a majority-white community, Trotter became aware of racial disparities and prejudice that still linger. Relatedly, he saw how hardworking employees like his mother were often at the mercy of others’ decisions. This gave him a desire early on to take greater control of his destiny through business ownership. He learned more lessons on hard work and teamwork as he became a standout three-sport athlete in high school, earning him a football scholarship to the prestigious Bucknell University in Lewisburg. As a first-generation college student, Trotter excelled as an athlete and in the school’s business program and received several honors for his leadership on and off the field. A year after college, Trotter returned to Lewisburg and worked for Bucknell. He eventually became an ACE-certified personal trainer and built a reputation as a top fitness expert in the area – on his way to establishing TROTFITNESS with his wife, Yorelis Trotter. Known as “The Fitness Preacher,” Trotter brings great energy and talent to his work – whether he is speaking to a group, helping his clients get in shape, advocating for racial equality, or being a husband and father of three. Joy, authentic enthusiasm, along with a savvy business sense, are all keys to success as an entrepreneur and in life, and Trotter has those qualities in abundance. In this episode of the Rural Business Show, Trotter discusses what it was like growing up in the rural Deep South and the childhood experiences that influenced him to become a business owner. We discuss some of the racial injustices he and his family went through and the continuing racial disparities in the United States. We talk about his college experience and why he decided to return and build his business in Pennsylvania, another majority-white community. He shares the lessons he is learning as a business owner and new challenges his business is navigating due to COVID-19. Trotter also gives advice to those considering starting a business in a rural location and the important role entrepreneurship plays in race and social justice issues in communities. Learn more about Nisan Trotter at www.nisantrotter.com, Instagram, Facebook and pick up his book, “Born Gifted,” on Amazon.
Jun 29, 2020
Episode 31: Duivenvoorden Farms
Duivenvoorden Farms is a third-generation family-owned dairy farm in northern California. Originally started by partners Jerry and Rita Duivenvoorden, and John and Nel DeJong, Duivenvoorden Farms has been operating for over 50 years. Owners Marc and Lori Duivenvoorden took over the farm in 1993 - doing everything from custom farming, running a beef herd, raising calves, and shipping milk to a local creamery. In 2009, Marc, Lori and their son Seth, made the decision to switch the dairy over to a raw milk herd share dairy. In June 2017, Duivenvoorden Farms gained access to the public market by building a "processing facility" to bottle their milk for retail sales. On this episode of the Rural Business Show, Seth Duivenvoorden discusses his background and why he chose to continue the family tradition of owning and running a dairy farm. He talks about what life is like in rural northern California and the difficulties of rural issues being heard in the country’s most populous state. He talks about the benefits his business has enjoyed since switching to selling their milk directly to retailers - even in the midst of the current pandemic. He also shares other important lessons learned as he works to grow his business.
May 18, 2020
Episode 30 - Sync.Space
Heath Guinn is an entrepreneur, community advocate and strategist based in Northeast Tennessee. Guinn has launched multiple successful companies and his most recent project is Sync.Space, an entrepreneur center with accelerator programs geared toward startups considering Northeast Tennessee as a place to grow or expand their business. The idea is to connect innovative companies with opportunities unique to the region. Early-stage companies in the program have access to funding for professional services, equipment, and other facilities to help complete a successful pilot with local partners. The first Accelerator Program began this spring. This interview was recorded in early February, right before the United States became engulfed with the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the current challenges, Guinn recently said Sync.Space started two accelerator programs which included attracting more than 25 companies over 4 states. The organization also launched a COVID-19 Innovation program called the "Restart Accelerator" where $50,000 is being put into a company or companies that have an idea that would help rural small businesses recover. That program website is RestartOurRegion.com. In this episode of the Rural Business Show, Heath Guinn talks about his experiences as an entrepreneur and about building businesses in his local community. He shares his motivation behind building a career in a rural setting. We then talk Sync.Space and why he is so passionate about this effort and why entrepreneurship is so key for the future of rural. Finally, Quinn provides advice to those looking to build businesses in a rural setting.
Feb 28, 2020
Episode 29: Rural Journalism
Community newspapers have served rural areas for hundreds of years, providing news and useful information to small-town residents. Local editors and reporters attend meetings, sporting events, and other community gatherings and provide an ongoing account of what’s happening in their town. Most papers are mainly supported by advertising dollars, but with economic struggles in many rural communities and new ways to advertise through the Internet and social media, community papers are seeing declines in revenue. Such is the case in Skagway, Alaska with The Skagway News. The semimonthly has undergone a few recent ownership changes as it has fought to gain new footing in a changing economic climate. Most recently, owner Larry Persily, who managed the paper remotely from Anchorage, put it up for sale for $0 in hopes he could find the right buyer to move to the town and take it over. Several national media outlets picked up the story, and Persily was overwhelmed with hundreds of applican…
Dec 17, 2019
Episode 28: Renovating a Small Town Building
Grace Pshigoda and her husband Ashley have worked hard to renovate a historic building in their hometown of Spearman, Texas. They turned the top floor of the 100-year-old structure into a three-room bed and breakfast and are opening the main floor for community meetings and events. The process wasn’t easy as the couple was told by a contractor the building should be condemned. They persevered through torrential downpours coming through the roof, a flooding basement, and a variety of other obstacles in order to turn the building back into an asset for the community. And they did all this on top of their regular full-time jobs as well as a farming and ranching operation. In this episode of the Rural Business Show, Grace talks about what her community means to her and why she chose to live and work there over the many other large cities and unique cultures she’s experienced in her life. She shares lessons learned through the renovation process as well as lessons on how to do busines…
Nov 22, 2019
Episode 27: Little House on the Feedlot
Rachel Granstra is a young mom and business owner living with her husband, Brennan, and twin daughters in northwest Iowa. She’s been in the region her whole life, benefiting from growing up in a tight-knit rural setting in a faith-centered home. She always knew she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and be able to stay home with her children. She has also always been an idea person and had the desire to start her own business. Today she is living out both dreams as she stays home to raise her girls and manage a successful online business called Little House on the Feedlot. Through a blog and social media, Rachel is building a national audience primarily of Christian moms to whom she shares her passion to, as her website states, serve the Lord by loving her family. Her platform generates recurring revenue through a meal planning subscription service, and Rachel is actively working on other ways to serve her audience. On this episode of the Rural Business Show, Rachel talks…
Oct 3, 2019
Episode 26: A 'Tuttie Fruttie' Farm
Kristin Thompson’s passion for plants and the empowerment of growing her own food started from a young age and has been calling her ever since. She believes it is one of the most grounding and self-empowering things a person can do for themselves and wants to share it with others through highly nutritious organic produce. Kristin has been growing food since 2012 and was an Organic Farm Intern at the Women's Environmental Institute. She started designing personal edible gardens for others in and around Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minn. for a number of years; while growing food herself at local community gardens. She is now venturing out into the world of farming through her new business, Tuttie Fruitties, an Organic Certified Farm in St Croix, Minn. The farm was established through a program with the Minnesota Food Association and Big River Farms that helps beginning farmers get established. In this episode of the Rural Business Show, Kristin shares what led her to farming and why…
Aug 26, 2019
Episode 25: Making the Cheese
Specialty Cheese Company is headquartered at a former high school in Reeseville, Wisc., population 679. The company is innovative in its growth and accommodating employees. Ten individuals are paid to drive staff from surrounding communities to work every day. The business is expanding, building a new child care facility for employees as well as local residents. The company grew from humble origins. In 1991, Paul Scharfman purchased five old cheese factories dating back to the 1860s. The early years were tough, as Scharfman staved off bankruptcy until eventually finding his footing. The company eventually outgrew the old factories and in 2003, purchased and converted the local high school into its headquarters. Losing a school is typically devastating to a rural town. It's a point of pride that the company could breathe new life into the building and community. In this episode of the rural business show, Scharfman talks about his journey building his company - from the time he was f…
Aug 1, 2019
Episode 24: Rethinking Rural
Madeline Moore is a young mom, rural entrepreneur and founder of Rethinking Rural, which is a network of engaged millennials working on rural issues at a national scale. In 2018, the Rethinking Rural invited 50 rural millennials to Port Townsend, Wash. to discuss how to improve rural communities. Three more symposiums are planned over the next three years. In this episode of The Rural Business Show, Madeline shares why she returned to her hometown so quickly after college. She discusses how the mindset is changing on how rural young people can live and work successfully in small towns. She reflects on the successful bakery business she started after moving back and the lessons learned there. Then we focus on Rethinking Rural. We look at what the goals are as the organization connects rural millennials throughout the U.S.
Jul 16, 2019
Episode 23: Rural Startup Connecting Growers to Local Buyers
Vinder is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and buy local produce - connecting community members to local growers. Founded in July of 2016 in Port Townsend, Wash., a rural Victorian art and seaport community, Vinder was originally launched on foot and bicycle by the founder and CEO, Sam Lillie. He would go door to door asking homeowners if they had a home garden, if they ever had too much produce, and if they ever thought about selling some. Many said yes, they did have an abundance of produce. Within 3 months, Vinder connected 30 home growers with 15 families and distributed over 300 lbs of homegrown produce. Today users can buy, sell, and trade local produce through Vinder’s mobile apps. The company has won several prestigious business competitions and raised hundreds of thousands in capital. In this episode of the Rural Business show, I speak with Sam Lillie, who lives in Port Townsend. He talks about his struggles finding his lane after college - he applied…
Dec 24, 2018
Episode 22: Rural Career and Technical Education
Every Career and Technical Education (CTE) class at Lincoln County High School (LCHS) in Hamlin, West Virginia is a Simulated Workplace. The classes cover a wide variety of professions – teaching, computer science, publishing and law enforcement, to name just a few. They run as businesses, taking on real-world projects that serve their communities. Nestled in the town of 1,000, LCHS is one of the state’s model Simulated Workplace schools. Matt Miller is the CTE Administrator at the high school. He and a group of students recently shared what they’re learning and how they’re enhancing career preparation through the program. They share how Simulated Workplace compares to the traditional classroom (7:35). They discuss how the program helps develop essential workplace skills. This includes confidence, leadership and communication (11:14). The program helps students come out of their shell, overcoming shyness and take initiative (12:53). The group also discusses how rural commun…
Oct 19, 2018
Episode 21: Simulated Workplaces in Rural Schools
The new Simulated Workplace initiative in West Virginia’s public schools is making a big impact on rural economies in that state. The West Virginia Department of Education worked with numerous businesses and industries throughout the area to design the program. This initiative helps schools implement a workplace environment in all Career and Technical Education classes. These classes run as a business would, taking on real-world projects that benefit their surrounding communities. This gives students not only academic knowledge and technical skill, but the ability to solve problems, work with a team, and take on leadership roles. Simulated Workplace gives students the chance to take ownership of their individual performance, while thriving in an authentic workplace culture. Kathy D’Antoni, Ed.D. is the Assistant State Superintendent of Schools with the West Virginia Department of Education and oversees this program. She joined me to discuss the impact it is having on students and…
Aug 30, 2018
Episode 20: Rural Workforce Development
Brent Parton is the deputy director of the Center on Education & Skills at New America, a D.C.-based think tank. He focuses on education policies at the Center in order to build learning-based pathways to economic opportunity. He took time to speak with Rural Business HQ recently on rural workforce development, sharing his thoughts on what rural communities can do to prepare a workforce that will benefit their economies long-term (6:33). We discuss how rural areas can become more entrepreneurial (9:32), what industries have the most potential for growth (12:09), the role businesses can play to build up the local talent pool (16:09), and examples of success that are happening today (23:00).
Jun 12, 2018
Episode 19: Silver City MainStreet
Silver City MainStreet fosters economic development in Silver City, New Mexico’s historic downtown. The organization does this through collaboration and promotion of downtown events, improvements to and preservation of the historic district, and the development of new and creative uses for downtown buildings. Silver City MainStreet is a 2011 recipient of the Great American MainStreet Award, a national award given to only three MainStreet programs each year. I recently spoke with the organization’s Executive Director, Charmeine Wait, who shared the history of the program, keys to creating a vibrant, small-town main street, the affect tourism can have on a rural economy, and ways different facets of a community can collaborate to achieve common economic goals.
Apr 10, 2018
Episode 18: Rural Pathway Project
The Rural Pathway Project (RPP) in New Mexico is assisting communities with building up their own tourism assets. Suzy Lawrence is the Tourism Development Coordinator for the New Mexico Tourism Department and recently talked about the project and how rural communities can build their local economies through tourism. Rather than simply send money to communities, the project is a capacity-building effort where the department works “with stakeholders to help identify profitable product opportunities and then provide the necessary resources they need to develop that plan and be successful for the long run.” What those profitable products look like depends on the community need and community goals, according to Lawrence. “My whole drive, everything that I do, is to increase the quality of life for New Mexicans by increasing revenue streams through our communities,” she said. When Lawrence and her team goes into a community, they focus on making sure time is spent with time-inten…