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Rural Renewal

Can entrepreneurs help boost small-town economies?

This story appears in the July 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

While the national labor force grew nearly 10 percent from 1994 to 2001, the work force in Hastings, Nebraska, (population 24,000) shrank by 3 percent. That's a situation common in many small towns and rural areas, especially in the Upper Midwest, where populations are falling, jobs are evaporating and new businesses are weary about starting.

Allen Harpham founded Computer Consultants of Hastings Inc. in 1992 and has watched smaller towns in his area depopulate as residents move to cities or even out of state to find greater opportunity. "The communities with a thousand people or less are struggling," says the employer of three.

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