In the high-pressure realm of economic development, the idea of self-employment gets a bad rap. In this view, entrepreneurs who start companies and grow them big are good, but people who create employment only for themselves are bad.
I disagree. I think self-employment is terrific, especially in small towns. Admittedly, I'm biased because I'm self-employed. Have been for a long time now.
Here are three reasons why self-employment is a positive for small towns, from Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural economics and regional economics at Penn State, and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. (Source: http://www.ruralsociology.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Rural-Realities-2-3.pdf
1. Self-employment has grown faster than wage jobs in rural areas.
2. Self-employment jobs are more stable during economic downturns.
3. Self-employment raises incomes and lowers poverty.
In the local news, I just read that a major employer is rumored to be laying off workers. They have a lot of workers here, but the headquarters are in the big city. Will the top executives in Oklahoma City worry about my county's stability in their layoff plans? No.
My county also has truckloads of self-employed people. It's not likely that dozens or hundreds of them will lose their big contracts, all on the same day. Even then, they have the option to get out and hustle to replace the lost business. They make the decisions about their own future.
Now just in case you need something you can quote to your local skeptics, here's another comment from Professor Goetz:
â€œCommunity leaders usually are thinking about big companies, and thereâ€™s a mindset that economic development comes from the outsideâ€”recruiting auto manufacturers and big stores, for example,â€ he says. â€œBut leaders also should celebrate local businesses and look at the self-employed, in addition, as important to the economy.â€