Rural Business
Local Entrepreneurs prove that business can be done successfully in rural Kansas
an editorial by John Montgomery, The Hays Daily News

A huge myth permeates the thinking of most CEOs.  That is the mistaken belief that they must be located in or close to metropolitan areas.

The big-city CEOs must think that rural areas do not have enough workers.  And surely they think it is crucial to be located on key transportation routes or believe that in a rural location they will be out of touch with suppliers and customers.

We know that for most enterprises none of this is so.

We have plenty of workers. Many, in fact, are leaving here to go to there because the jobs are not here.  Not only can rural areas support the work force, but our bet is that a better work ethic can be found here as well as more affordable labor.

People might even move here to work if they get past the other misconception that city life is better.  We know, in fact, that the quality and pace of life is much better here.

The distance issue is a real puzzler considering modern technology, which means no matter where you are located you do considerable business by phone, fax, e-mail, etcetera.

And we do have roads and rail and airports out here, by the way.

Yet the myth perpetuates.

Even people born and raised in rural areas often feel the need to break for the big city as soon as they can.

But leave it to a local such as Chuck Comeau of Plainville to break the mold and run contrary to conventional big-city wisdom.  As described in a feature story in Sunday’s (10/13) Nor’wester section of The Hays Daily News, Comeau has built up a string of manufacturing businesses all based out of Plainville.

And Comeau is not manufacturing your run-of-the-mill widgets up in Plainville.  He designs, manufactures and markets a line of exclusive fabrics, unique upscale furniture and light fixtures and home accessories.  His products are featured in showrooms in places such as Chicago and New York City.  He sell direct to designers, decorators and architects.

All from his headquarters in Plainville, where 70 of his 106 employees are located.

Comeau chooses to stay in Plainville not just because it is possible.  He actually plays on location to his advantage.

He promotes the quality of life of a small town.  And he gets considerable attention in the trade press because he is located in the “middle of nowhere,” Kansas.

Comeau might be better known as the chief developer of a downtown Hays revitalization plan.  But that, too, is part of his attitude about life in western Kansas.  He likes it here, and he has a vested and personal interest in developing quality of life for his family and his employees.

Chuck Comeau is not the only entrepreneur in these parts who values doing business here.  Others, too, realize that being located in rural Kansas is not only an option, but it is good for business.

Those success stories deserve to be told, and anyone working on economic development and diversity in rural Kansas ought to be using them as examples to develop budding local entrepreneurs as well as to recruit outside business concerns.