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Undergraduate Research Journal

Abstract

The Center for Rural Affairs is a Nebraskan nonprofit organization whose mission is to establish strong rural communities while engaging local citizens in the decisions affecting their quality of life and the future of their communities (Bailey, Preston, & Beck, 2014). Established in 1973, the Center’s research shows that rural communities in Nebraska and the Great Plains suffered economic and social declines in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to a diminishing population and decreased demand for products and services. The REAP program was funded by the Small Business Administration in 1992 to address these challenges and to help enhance the entrepreneurial spirit of small town Nebraska (Bailey, Preston, & Beck, 2014). In 1997, the Nebraska Legislature adopted LB 327, the Microenterprise Development Act, in order to provide services to microbusinesses and entrepreneurs. More recently in 2011, the Business and Innovation Act was signed into law, which implemented a process for grants to be given to micro-loan delivery organizations, such as REAP.

Using the biennial REAP Needs Assessment Survey from 2008 to 2016, this study compares start-up difficulties, current needs, and desired training among business owners in various sociodemographic groups. Based on changing population demographics, rural and smaller businesses are expected to have different needs than metro and larger businesses. Overall, the results indicate metro county business owners and smaller businesses report more current needs, such as cash, marketing, support, and knowledge, than rural county business owners and larger businesses. This study explains these results using recent reports on urbanization and adds a needs-based view to resource providers who will help shape the future of small business in Nebraska. In the following section, a review of the literature is provided.

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