A new report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce commissioned by Amazon “Unlocking the Digital Potential of Rural America” is now available.
The report outlines recommendations for the private and public sectors to help rural small businesses meet their full potential, including expanding education and training programs, helping rural areas attract tech talent, and increasing the availability of high-speed internet access and mobile phone connectivity.
Here are the key findings:
Greater adoption of digital tools in rural America could add $140 billion to the U.S. economy by 2021.
The increased adoption of online tools and digital services for businesses across rural America could create more than 360,000 jobs in the next three years
21% growth in annual revenue
Increased adoption could grow annual revenues of rural small businesses by more than 21% over the next three years – the equivalent of $84.5 billion per year – with the states in the South seeing the greatest benefit.
37 million working-age adults
There are 37 million working-age adults and 18 million households in the rural U.S. While accounting for close to 15% of the adult population and nearly three-quarters of the country’s land mass, annual revenues of rural businesses represent only 3.7% of total gross revenues in the U.S. economy.
Despite some improvement in the adoption of digital tools by rural businesses over the past decade, this new research shows how increased use of digital technology in rural America could help drive faster growth in the rural economy.
20% of revenue
One-in-five rural businesses are already digital. Nearly 20% of rural small businesses in America generate the vast majority of their revenue (at least 80%) by selling their products and services online.
Technology is boosting rural business revenues. Rural businesses say adoption of digital technologies are important for their future, with 55.2% of them agreeing that e-commerce helps them grow their customer base and a similar percentage (54.6%) confirming that online tools had a positive impact on their revenue in the past three years.
Online services help rural businesses reach customers out of state and overseas. Almost 40% of these small business owners say that digital technology has allowed them to sell beyond their state and 16% of them confirm they are selling internationally due to their access to digital tools. Twenty-five percent sell their products using their own websites, 12.7% use a third-party online sales site, and 35.7% use online marketing, including social media.
Digital tools and technology help purchasing and cut costs. 29% of rural businesses say that online tools reduce purchasing costs of products and materials, with 22% purchasing at least 80% of their goods and services online.