Every resident of rural Massachusetts deserves to make a good living?in an environment that provides a good life.
This belief is at the core of our economic development work. Rural Commonwealth provides programs for rural entrepreneurs to launch and improve their businesses, and that allow rural job seekers to gain access to high-paying jobs that often can be done remotely. We hold all of our programs in rural communities, near the businesses and homes of participants.
We also conduct research that highlights the economic conditions of rural communities around Massachusetts. You can download our first Rural Commonwealth Business Report here.
Programs for entrepreneurs
Our interviews and ongoing conversations with rural business owners have revealed the need for resources and training opportunities that are delivered in nearby small towns. To this end, our programs for entrepreneurs include:
- Three-month business tune-up programs for existing businesses (beginning in June 2018)
- Incubator for new businesses (beginning in September 2018, applications available soon)
- Connections to resources that lower the cost of doing business in small towns, such as our West County Kitchens project.
- Occasional networking, training, and speaker events designed to address specific interests of the local business community.
Programs for job seekers
Focus on pay and location
Rural Commonwealth is creating pathways for rural residents to jobs that pay at least $54,000 per year. That’s two times the median per capita income here in Charlemont, where Rural Commonwealth is based, and one-and-a-half times that of Massachusetts as a whole.
We believe a focus on jobs that pay significantly more than the median will result in a meaningful difference in the lives of the rural residents who take advantage of these opportunities. This will also attract new job seekers to this area which has experienced years of population decline.
We also are looking at jobs that can be done remotely from rural communities, at least part of the time. Why? Rural retail businesses depend on locally-spent dollars. Small towns are set up to be run mostly by volunteers. As jobs disappeared from rural communities, so did locally-spent dollars and potential volunteers. We need to reverse this trend.
Turning broadband access into rural jobs
There are 36,000 people in rural Massachusetts who lack access to broadband. This situation will change over the next two years. Research shows that simply having access to the internet will not make a meaningful difference in users’ lives. As fiber networks are built out in our communities, Rural Commonwealth is working on translating this new resource into real, well-paying job opportunities that can be pursued from rural parts of the state.