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Here’s why I started the Survey of Rural Challenges

Could you help us spread the word on the Survey of Rural Challenges to as many people as possible? You could repost, add to your newsletter, print it in the local newspaper or share in meetings and presentations now through the end of May. Use this link: SaveYour.Town/survey2024 

Thank you! 

The very first time I ran the Survey of Rural Challenges in 2015, I was only asking people what topics they wanted me to write about on my site SmallBizSurvival. That’s why the questions say things like “which of these would you be most excited to learn more about.” I never expected to share the results as a public report. 

Once I read what 227 people told me about their towns, the challenges they were facing, and what they most wanted help with, I couldn’t shut up about it. I told everyone! Finally enough people told me that other people needed to see this, especially people and organizations who serve small towns. 

For some reason, a lot of the services and assistance that I saw offered to small towns simply didn’t match what the people themselves were saying they most wanted help with. 

Look at our most recent survey from 2023. There are all kinds of preconception-challenging results: 

  • Defying stereotyped media profiles of poverty, crime and drug abuse as the primary rural challenges, rural people continually ranked these near the bottom as community challenges. 
  • Rural businesses innovate. Far from stuck in their ways and out of date, the most common business assets listed in 2023 were innovative ideas and up-to-date marketing techniques. 
  • Although rural economic development often centers around jobs, it was one of the least-mentioned challenges in this survey. Rural people mentioned available jobs or good jobs as often as mentioning a lack of jobs or low paying jobs. 
  • For all the reports of a lack of small business lending, rural people said usable buildings are harder to find than loans, a continuing trend from previous surveys. 
  • Rural small business owners showed little or no interest in business plan assistance and pitch competitions, yet these types of assistance continue to be commonly offered to rural businesses.
  • Rural business people were more likely to mention that they needed help with marketing, starting a business, or receiving economic development incentives on par with those offered to recruit out-of-town firms. 

You can see why we’re still doing this survey even after ten years and 1700 responses. 

And this is why we would love your help. The survey is open right now through the end of May 2024. The more people who complete the survey, the more complete our results will be. 

If you have any suggestions for ways to reach more people and places, just reply. I’m listening!