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Rural Jobs and Venture Capital
The Rural Jobs Coalition has invested time and energy into raising awareness of, and making improvements to, the State and Federal tax treatment for venture capital. The thinking goes that if you entice increased investment into jobs that are by-and-large located in rural America, then that will bring much needed employment to fly-over country. Sounds reasonable. Most City and State Departments of Economic Development tout the availability of a good workforce in their countryside. The problem is that it’s not just about the new business offering hope for employment. The businesses into which investment is flowing demands higher skilled people. Venture Capitalists usually face this dilemma as they strive to find and cultivate a key owner or president. Such leadership is critical to the scale-up of a company, and often the difference between huge success and simply a good idea. Huge
success brings also the opportunity for the valued exit strategy, whereby the VC captures the return on their investment.
An unacknowledged issue in new rural business development has been the skilled tradesmen needed to operate and maintain the machinery in a new car plant, or bio-fuel facility. Same thing with startup food and ag companies sooner or later. The cutting, processing and packaging machinery for efficient scale-up is simply too sophisticated for a rural worker who claims their biggest success has been rebuilding dad’s truck or tractor. Identifying such skilled technically trained workers is not as sexy as searching for a CEO or Financial Officer. But lacking the trained workforce, or lacking any continuing education for a work force dooms the company as surely as lack of capital for a needed expansion.
Venture Capitalists are clamoring for business opportunities in rural America in which to invest. The new Administration is working to bring jobs back. We need to marry the concept with improved technical training to support the new jobs, and more importantly, to fill the pipeline with students who wish to learn the craft of manufacturing and maintenance.