By Landee Kieschnick
TFB Communications Intern
An opportunity to spur rural economic development and encourage rural entrepreneurship in youth and business owners comes as a sign of encouragement for small town leaders, officials and entrepreneurs.
Rural communities make up more than half of Texas counties, which means out of 254 counties about 180 are close to the rural definition of 50,000 people or less.
Many small town officials, business owners or entrepreneurs are diverse and opportunistic, ready to take on the challenge of expanding and helping prosper their community.
This also includes helping the future of the community—the youth.
“It’s hard to lure young people back to rural communities to start their own business or career paths there,” Gil Gonzalez, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Rural Business Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute for Economic Development, said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network.
Many young adults lack the desire to move back after graduation and start their own business if there’s no potential growth. This trend is a challenge for rural communities.
“In many respects, youth in rural areas, before they go to college, really do want to get involved. A lot of times, however, they don’t get invited to be engaged in a community or business project,” Gonzalez said.
In efforts to empower small towns, the Texas Rural Challenge (TRC) reflects a commitment to building stronger rural communities that are prosperous, sustainable and can create quality jobs.
TRC is a conference that offers opportunities for community officials, business owners and leaders to find shared practices that will improve the quality of life and strengthen economies in small towns across the state.
Texas agriculture remains a huge component to the overall rural economy and additionally supports the world economy in terms of food security, Gonzalez noted.
“As you look at Texas being number one in cattle production and very competitive in cotton, it’s a huge factor, but a lot of times that gets overlooked,” he said. “I think sometimes when people think about farm to fork, they think products just show up in the grocery store, so I believe the connection still needs to be stronger.”
The 8th annual Texas Rural Challenge is set for June 29-30 in Waco, which hopes to put a lens on rural communities and its importance to our state and global economies. TRC features Texas Strong, a competition for business owners who are SBDC clients, and the Texas Student Challenge (TSC) for college students.
The TSC business plan competition supports the development of rural entrepreneurship in the community and local youth.
TSC encourages entrepreneurship and technological innovation among college students in Texas. It is open to undergraduate and graduate students majoring in any field and attending a Texas college or university. The top three winners also receive cash awards.
To learn more or become involved with the Texas Rural Challenge or the Texas Student Challenge, visit texasruralchallenge.org.