Recently, we were speaking with Becky McCray, an entrepreneur from Alva who is writing a book on how small town entrepreneurship relates to entrepreneurship in the global economy.
"Every kind of business exists in rural and small town Oklahoma," McCray says. "Ponca City has an attitude and openness to entrepreneurship and is known for recruiting entrepreneurs. Woodward, a town in cowboy country with a long history with energy production, has a major cluster of wind farms. Ditch Witch in Perry makes trenchers and earth moving equipment that are used all over the world."
The rest of the country can learn from the experience of rural and small town entrepreneurs.
For example, since most nonmetro areas aren't home to corporations, small town entrepreneurs are very self-reliant. "As a country, we've finding out that the nation can't rely on corporations for jobs," McCray said.
Small town entrepreneurs also know almost instinctively how to operate with limited resources. "You don't have the option of being overcapitalized
"Entrepreneurs build tougher, leaner businesses that aren't overleveraged," she said.
In nonmetro areas, there may not be enough demand to support a single line of business so entrepreneurs diversify. McCray and her husband own a cattle range and a liquor store. She also operates a consulting practice and is a public speaker.
Rural and small town entrepreneurs are wary of bubbles. "The market, your income, the value of your house or your business, these don't always go up," McCray says. "Small towns don't forget this. We are too close to farming. That changes the way a rural entrepreneur does business. We plan with a long-term
McCray says technology has driven cultural changes, small is big.
"With social media, all your customers can talk to each other," she says. "This has always been true in a small town where everybody talks to everybody else. We know that if all our customers can talk to each other, we must treat every customer very well, similarly but not the same."
McCray typifies the entrepreneurial spirit that links the cities, towns, and rural areas of Oklahoma, making our state an ideal place for new companies of all kinds to form and grow.
Tom Walker is president and CEO of i2E, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that mentors many of the state's technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact him at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
A recent report based on U.S. Census data reveals that on average and for all but seven years between 1977 and 2005, existing firms lost 1 million net jobs per year. New businesses, on the other hand, added an average of 3 million jobs per year. Without entrepreneurial companies, our country wouldn't have any job growth at all.