LEARNING AREA: Economic Development

Rural Small Business Need Local Solutions to Survive


Hanna Love and Mike Powe




The COVID-19 small business crisis is prolonged and uneven, inflicting a disproportionate toll on microbusinesses in underserved communities that are the lifeblood of their local economies. While much attention has been paid to small business closures in urban communities across the country, the same dynamic is unfolding in underserved rural areas, with dire consequences.

To understand the effectiveness of rural downtown revitalization heading into the COVID-19 recession—and its potential for promoting rural recovery and resilience—this brief examines these efforts’ impact on rural small business growth, development, and success. As part of a five-part series, it draws from on-the-ground research in three rural communities just prior to the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak to highlight key lessons learned and point to the policy and capacity-building supports needed to sustain, improve, and scale downtown revitalization strategies amid the pandemic recession and beyond.