Making It In Rural America
ELAINE L. EDGCOMB TA M R A T H E T F O R D
F E B R U A RY 2 0 0 4
Microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination
This publication was made possible by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. FIELD (The Microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination, is aresearch and development organization dedicated to the expansion and sustainability of microenterprise development efforts, particularly those aimed at low-income Americans. Its mission is to identify, develop and disseminate best practices, and to broadly educate policy makers, funders and others about microenterprise as an anti-poverty intervention. To learn more, visit: www.fieldus.org. Copyright2004 by FIELD, a program of the Aspen Institute Published in the United States of America 2004 by the Aspen Institute All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America ISBN: 0-89843-401-7
Making It In Rural America
ELAINE L. EDGCOMB TA M R A T H E T F O R D F E B R U A RY 2 0 0 4
FIELD (Microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning andDissemination) The Aspen Institute One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20036 (202) 736-1071 www.fieldus.org
here are many people to thank for their assistance in completing this study. First and foremost, continued thanks go to Jack Litzenberg, Senior Program Officer for the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, who first called attention to the size and significanceof the informal economy in the United States, and to those in that economy who make their living through entrepreneurial activities. Jack generated the questions that have guided this work and all the components of the informal economy research project, and has pushed us to learn how enterprise development services might be better designed to serve their needs and support their business success.Sincerest thanks go to those in western Nebraska who closely helped us with our research, but who will remain anonymous to preserve the confidentiality of the entrepreneurs we interviewed. They include our recruiter, who introduced the project to her contacts, encouraging individuals to speak with us, organizing the interviews, and managing many other administrative aspects associated with theresearch. Without her on the ground assistance, this research would not have been possible. Our hosts at the courthouses, libraries and churches that served as interview sites all provided gracious hospitality and facilities for conducting the interview sessions. Our gratitude also goes to Rose Jaspersen at the Nebraska Microenterprise Partnership Fund for her interest in and support of the research.Other individuals who provided context and comments included: Gene Severens, National Fund for Enterprise Development; Joan Hanson, GROW Nebraska; Barry Dunn, South Dakota State University; Arlis Moore, University of Nebraska Food Processing Center; and Jon Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs. We remain grateful for the collaboration we have had with the staff of the Institute for Social andEconomic Development on implementing the whole informal economy research project, and particularly the exchange and support of Jan Losby. We have benefited greatly from their experiences in doing this same research in other communities. We acknowledge the support of our communications team at Aspen, including Carol Rugg for her comments and guidance in the creation of this document, Colleen Cunninghamand Greg Landrigan for their help in the production of the text, and Jackie Orwick for managing the electronic dissemination of all information on the informal economy research project.
THE INFORMAL ECONOMY
Finally, we extend our sincerest appreciation to the 42 individuals who participated in interviews and shared their experiences with us. While the text focuses principally on the 29...