Rural businesses

Rural small businesses are an integral part of local economies and communities. Learn more about SBA resources for rural businesses.


Disaster recovery

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several programs to help businesses financially recover from disasters.

SBA financing options

7(a) Loans, SBA’s largest financing program

If you're unable to qualify for conventional financing and you meet the eligibility requirements, use a 7(a) loan to buy real estate, equipment or inventory for your small business. The loan may also be used for working capital, to refinance business debt, or purchase a small business. Find an SBA lender in your area by using the Lender Match tool.

504 Certified Development Company loan

For those who cannot find traditional financing but would like to purchase/renovate real estate or buy heavy equipment for a small business. The loan provides competitive fixed-rate mortgage financing through a lender and a Certified Development Company (CDC). For more information, or to inquire about loan application requirements, contact your local CDC.

Eligible businesses can start up and grow with working capital or funds for supplies, equipment, furniture and fixtures. Borrow from $500 to $50,000 and access free business counseling from microlenders. Find a microloan intermediary in your area, or please contact your SBA district office.

Export assistance

Having trouble securing capital to meet your small business exporting needs? Use SBA international trade programs to cover short or long-term costs necessary to sell goods or services abroad. Loan proceeds can be used for working capital to finance foreign sales or fixed assets, helping you better compete globally. Apply for lines of credit prior to finalizing an export sale or contract and adequate financing will be in place by the time you win your contract.

If you’ve been in business for at least a year, ask your area SBA regional finance manager about the Export Working Capital program.

The International Trade loan program also helps exporters who have been adversely affected by foreign importing competition, helping you better compete globally.

Partnership with USDA

SBA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that commits to a deeper collaboration and coordination of resources.

SBA is working to increase access to capital, improve opportunities for public and private investments in rural America, help rural businesses export products around the world, and increase the resiliency of rural communities through small business development. The effort aims to achieve the President’s vision of a rural America with world-class resources, and the tools and support necessary to build robust and sustainable communities.

Rural Opportunity Zones and HUBZones

SBA supports small business development in two significant place-based programs to encourage economic growth and prosperity in historically underserved communities:

Opportunity Zones

Created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, this program allowed states to designate certain low-income census tracts as Opportunity Zones. Investors may defer, reduce, and eventually eliminate capital gains tax obligations provided they invest in eligible businesses located within Opportunity Zones and hold these qualifying investments for certain periods of time. The intent of this program is to direct realized capital gains into communities that have traditionally not benefited from this kind of investment, and to reward investors who choose to make long-term investments in underserved communities. Visit the U.S. Housing and Urban Developments Opportunity Zones website for more information. 


Businesses located in historically underused business zones (HUBZones) can gain special access to federal contracts. The program is easier to apply for and then maintain your certification. To qualify, your small business must:

  • Be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a community development corporation, an agricultural cooperative, Indian tribal government, Alaska native corporation, or a native Hawaiian organization;
  • Have a principal office located in a HUBZone. Enter your address in our interactive map, maps.certify., to see if you qualify;
  • Have at least 35% of your employees living in a HUBZone for a minimum of 180 days prior to applying.

Research and development

Much of the innovation in our country today comes from startups and small businesses. Small businesses conducting research and development create the devices, technologies, products, and platforms of the future. Entrepreneurs in rural areas are often looking for sources of funding, especially in earlier stages of research, and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are well-suited to meet that need.

America’s Seed Fund

The SBIR and the STTR programs, known as America’s Seed Fund, provide over $4 billion each year in early stage capital through a competitive awards process. Every year, participating federal agencies announce topic areas that address their R&D needs. The funding agency does not take an equity position or ownership of your business. The federal government also protects data rights and the ability to win sole-source phase three contracts. SBA’s Small Business Innovation Research program offers several ways to find funding opportunities, helpful tutorials, and news about past award winners such as Qualcomm, iRobot, Illumina, and Symantec. Use the local resources locator tool to identify state and regional programs and resources available to assist with grant writing, commercialization, and business counseling in your community.

Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program

The FAST program provides funding for one year to organizations to support delivery of regional and state programs that increase the number of SBIR/STTR proposals and provide technical assistance and mentoring to help awardees commercialize their technologies. This program is particularly impactful in rural states that may have fewer networks by which to provide this kind of assistance to applicants and awardees.

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Last updated May 30, 2024