Substantive innovation present in wholly rural single-unit firms

Bar chart showing substantive, nominal, and noninnovator rates by metro and single-unit status, 2014

Innovation—the introduction of new products or ways of doing business that consumers value—is widely regarded as an essential component of resilient local economies. Using a comprehensive measure of innovation, ERS researchers found a higher prevalence of substantive innovators in urban (metro) areas. Over 31 percent of urban establishments (100 employees or more) were classified as substantive innovators, compared with nearly 23 percent of rural (nonmetro) establishments. This gap may reflect the potential innovation advantages stemming from denser business and consumer networks in urban areas. Researchers also examined the substantive innovation rates of single-unit firms to determine whether substantive innovation in rural areas was truly a rural phenomenon—not just innovation strategies of national or multi-national firms with rural production locations. About 20 percent of single-unit firms in rural areas were classified as substantive innovators, compared to nearly 23 percent overall, confirming that some wholly rural firms are pursuing more far-ranging innovation. This chart appears in the ERS report, Innovation in the Rural Nonfarm Economy: Its Effect on Job and Earnings Growth, 2010-2014, released September 2017.

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