The year 2014 is projected to be a strong year in most rural areas in the United States, with robust business development and the continuation of a national movement that places a strong emphasis on “buying local.” The recent Rural Business Trends for 2014 report looked specifically at small towns (with populations under 20,000), where universally local trends are going to matter more than national ones, unlike their urban counterparts. Here are some top trends for rural small businesses projected for 2014

  • In towns under 5,000, stage 2 businesses are booming. “Stage 2” businesses are those growth-minded businesses that have already hired between 10 and 50 people and demonstrate a potential to grow even more. In 2013, NetWork Kansas (an economic gardening project) worked with 41 of these businesses, and 61 percent of these were in towns with 5,000 people or less.
  • Big urban centers currently have a love affair with small towns. In fact, ruralism is taking root in big cities in terms of design and urban planning, pushing cities to be more walkable and community oriented. This presents a great marketing advantage for rural firms and also bodes well for rural tourism.
  • Young people are returning. The trend of young people graduating high school and leaving their small towns is no more. Rather, there is currently a significant flow of adults between 30 to 44 relocating to small towns.
  • The definition of “rural business” is changing. Where individual business ownership is too challenging in rural areas, community ownership is taking over. Business models like coworking, pop-ups, and combinations businesses are emerging, enabling the pooling of resources and cutting of costs.
  • Energy booms are key for many rural areas. More opportunities in the energy sector are cropping up in small towns, with spillover opportunities stemming from the need for transmission infrastructure construction for wind, solar, oil, and gas.
  • Consumers continue to “think local.” The local movement continues, with an emphasis on local foods, local art, local travel, and local culture. In addition, consumers have become much more aware of the importance of local businesses to their immediate economy.
  • Rural e-commerce continues to fluctuate: While recent changes in sales tax laws have made local businesses more competitive in the e-commerce sector, rural retailers are still facing other challenges in this market. Primarily, many U.S. Postal Service distribution centers have closed, increasing package delivery times in rural areas.
  • Rural communities offer a low-cost business advantage: Business experts nationwide are taking note of regional differences in cost of living and cost of doing business, and businesses are starting to take advantage of low cost rural locations.
  • Local manufacturing is undergoing a resurgence: While the reshoring of manufacturing is making national headlines, many of these new projects are ending up in rural areas (as this makes manufacturing more cost competitive vs. locations in expensive major metro areas).


McCray, Becky. “Small Town Business 2014: Trends in Rural and Small Town Business.” Small Biz Survival.

“Time for the Rural Small Business Trends for 2014.” Small Biz Survival. 1/20/14.