Back in October of 1994, long before the Cloud, the smart phone, flat screen TV and the Oculus Rift, Bill Gates published his signature book, ‘The Road Ahead’ which outlined his vision for the future of technology in society. More than twenty years have passed, and while gargantuan changes have taken place in many segments of our new society, small towns, and very small businesses seem to have been left behind on the road ahead.
Some small business websites are still being created and managed by well-meaning nephews and nieces, and the accounting is done by Aunt Martha, who thinks QuickBooks will simply take too long to master. For others, a computer network is a group of well-connected people that share a single computer, not the other way around. So the question is: Is running a business in a small town still a disadvantage in the modern world of Internet, Wi-Fi and collaboration?
Some people choose to start their business in a small town because they simply live there. “We were born and raised here, both personally and as a company,” explains Kyle Drone of Dinger Bats in Ridgway. In an interview with the Southern Business Journal recently, Mr. Drone added; “We have everything we need, and it’s less expensive to do business here. Plus, we have the Internet and all of the shipping companies come through town every day. You can be in business any place in the world today.”
So aside from the obvious reasons, of being native to an area, why would any company choose to move to a small town? Manufacturers may find the labor costs lower, and if you’ve tried to open a small business in a major city, you might find that regulatory compliance, taxes and the simple “cost of doing business” is just prohibitive.
Tom Welge, vice president of technical sales and general counsel for Gilster-Mary Lee in Southern Illinois, says, “Sometimes, if you’re in a growth mode, finding enough of a workforce can be a challenge.”
Still companies do it every day.
Sufficient Internet bandwidth and the technical support needed to run a larger business can sometimes be a challenge as well. The US Department of Agriculture provides some grants to rural communities to develop technology infrastructure as well as training resources to help build a viable business environment.
Have small towns been left behind on the road ahead? Not so much in Whatcom County, Washington, where some very well-known businesses continue to thrive, including Alsop, Intalco, British Petroleum, Botanical Labs, Barleans, DIS Corp, Totally Chocolate and Nature’s Path, just to name a few.
As the world becomes smaller and our perception of local community expands, business competition also expands, becoming even more intense, and the need for even more innovation increases with it. As technology takes on a larger role in our daily business, local business owners, who may even be competitors, have an opportunity to explore news ways to work together, so both their community and their respective businesses thrive in the 21st century. – Gary Bryant, Strateka.com