By JOHN CRABTREE
A microenterprise is defined as a business with five or fewer employees. Microenterprises constitute 87 percent of all American small businesses. Moreover, during the last recession, these small businesses led the nation out of recession by creating jobs while bigger firms were still cutting.
Microenterprises are not one-size-fits-all kinds of businesses, and neither are the organizations that exist to serve them. Most of these organizations are nonprofits, either housed within larger organizations -- like the Center for Rural Affairs' REAP program -- or as stand-alone nonprofits. They provide core services like business training, technical assistance and access to capital.
Some microenterprise programs are training led, while others focus on lending. This diverse mix of microenterprise development organizations contributes to a healthy entrepreneurial climate and establishes dynamic statewide networks of support for micro entrepreneurs. The end result is job creation through the development and expansion of microenterprises. In much of America a majority of job creation happens in microenterprises, in rural America the percentages are even higher.
The Center for Rural Affairs fought hard to get the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) included in the 2008 farm bill, in order to help build the capacity of entrepreneurial development across rural America. As USDA works to implement RMAP it is crucial that they stick to the intent of the legislation and provide not just loan capital, but also significant resources for the training and technical assistance that current and aspiring rural small business owners need most (visit http://www.cfra.org/policy/micro/federal-micro-program for more information on RMAP).
The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 as an unaffiliated nonprofit corporation under IRS code 501(c)3. The Center for Rural Affairs was formed by rural Nebraskans concerned about family farms and rural communities, and we work to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. John Crabtree is the media director for the organization.