Entrepreneurship in the New Rural America

By Beacon Staff

In her recently published book, “TheNewRural.Com,” Whitefish resident Diane Smith writes that, “in our challenging 21st century economy, the experts appear to agree that entrepreneurship is more important than ever.”

So what does that mean for rural America? Smith believes it means good things, since, in her view, rural America’s landscape is filled with entrepreneurs. She’s one of them.

After a successful career in technology in Washington D.C., Smith moved with her family to Whitefish in 2002, seeking “elbow room” and all of those other treasures of Montana life. But her business days were far from finished.

Thanks to technology, Smith was able to continue her entrepreneurial quests far away from the nation’s bustling urban centers. She helped found Avail Media, a tech enterprise that has since merged with TVN and turned into a major global digital services company.

In her nine years in Montana, other successful, large-scale business endeavors have emerged locally, she said, including National Flood Services, Nomad Global Communications Solutions, Torrent Technologies and Merlin Information Services.

“I think the most creative and interesting people I know live out here,” Smith said in an interview last week.

That is a major theme of Smith’s “TheNewRural.Com” – the ubiquitous presence of creative businesspeople throughout rural America. She writes: “Entrepreneurs here are an abundant natural resource.”

“In order to survive, for much of its history,” Smith continues, “Rural Americans had to learn basic attributes of entrepreneurship – traits like risk taking, hard work, frugality, and self-reliance. Notably, these are the same characteristics we also use to describe America’s early pioneers.”

In reference to modern entrepreneurialism, she adds: “Let’s call it a second wave of American pioneering.”

“TheNewRural.Com,” which is available on Amazon and will soon be available in local bookstores, describes technology as a “game changer,” altering the way our nation can do business in the new economy.

So long as a rural area has the proper wired and wireless technology infrastructure, Smith said entrepreneurs can set up shop with no large cities nearby, enabling them to enjoy the quality of life that places like Montana offer. The Flathead Valley, Smith said, has the requisite infrastructure, which was a mandatory priority for her move from Washington D.C.

“I travel all over America and we are emphatically competitive with the rest of America in terms of our infrastructure,” Smith said. “It doesn’t mean we’re done, though.”

Rural America offers unique business challenges too, which Smith acknowledges. For one, professionals such as lawyers and accountants may not be trained in ways that satisfy the demands of today’s technology-driven, global economy.

Also, location may have an impact on travel, but Smith said in her career she has always spent great amounts of times in planes. The difference now, she said, is a little bit longer travel time and perhaps a little better planning for business trips.

“Now, instead of one segment, I have two segments,” Smith said.

Smith describes in her book five fundamentals of the modern world that allow for economic growth in rural areas, driven by entrepreneurs: mobile and wired broadband networks, virtual workers, remote health care, distance learning and access to capital. Basically, Smith is saying that people can start businesses in rural areas today without getting cut off from quality education, health care, funding resources and employees.

Smith’s book also has sections addressing rural politics, energy issues and the arts, among other topics. In conclusion, her book states that the creative and forward-thinking inhabitants of rural America can and should be at the forefront of economic growth as our country moves forward in the 21st century.

“Rural America should demand to be front and center on everyone’s game plan for the entrepreneurship and pioneering that our Nation needs,” she writes. “It’s a great place to live. It’s a great place to work. And, it’s a great time to do both. Welcome to The New Rural.”

For more information, go to www.thenewrural.com.