Rural businesses in Texas could attract $ 3.7 billion to the local rural economy – more than any other state – by connecting them to digital tools and broadband Internet access, a new report said.

Online retail sales almost doubled between 2011 and 2016, and web tools supported businesses across the commercial sector. This is evident from the report of the US Chamber of Commerce and Amazon. Small rural rural businesses have often been excluded for lack of manpower, training programs and broadband connections.

More than 25 percent of rural Texans have no access to broadband Internet, compared to 2 percent of city dwellers.

There are no workers in rural enterprises either. According to forty percent of rural entrepreneurs who responded in the report, their communities have no local talent for creating the sites. They use online marketing, logistics and cloud computing tools to help businesses grow.

"What we've seen for Texas in these rural communities – they could create more than $ 11.2 billion for the state economy and more than 70,000 jobs over the next three years," said Allison Flicker, spokeswoman for Amazon.

"It's huge for business and everyone," said Lonnie Hunt, executive director of the Deep East Texas Council of Government. Unlike many government councils across the state, the DETCOG lacks larger cities.

"We can not get a new business to invest where there is no broadband access. It's not a luxury anymore – it's a necessity, "Hunt said.

The study is signed by Amazon. This is consistent with other efforts by the company to improve access for small businesses on its platform, Flicker said.

"Many people do not realize that more than half of the things they see on Amazon are actually being sold by small and medium-sized businesses," she said.

Amazon could benefit from increased revenues on its platform from more rural online businesses. More rural online businesses also mean more potential customers for Amazon Web Services, the largest provider of server space, web hosting, and online tools in the country. AWS earned $ 25 billion in 2018, more than McDonald's. It represents the largest part of Amazon's overall profit.

More than a third of Texas households are not connected to broadband. The affordability of access was the main reason why Texas homes were not connected to broadband.

"In rural communities, this is often due to a lack of competition," said Jordana Barton, senior researcher at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. "This study speaks for investment (in broadband)."

Small businesses have accounted for 65 percent of employment growth over the last 25 years, but Barton said there are disagreements in urban centers.

"To preserve some of this benefit for rural America – the unique potential of online access to reduce geographic barriers, we are unaware of the full potential," she said.

Public-private partnerships that lead to more broadband and more training could encourage some people to look around rural areas to counteract the so-called brain drain. Only 16 percent graduate from college and many never retire, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Rural Texas has grown slowly since 1980 and has less than 600,000 inhabitants. According to the USDA, urban cousins ​​have more than doubled, rising from 11 to 25 million people.

"We have 12 counties. Seven of them have lost populations since the 2010 census, "said Hunt, who sees the future of his rural Texas neighborhood in the development of a local broadband consortium that the district has earmarked half a million dollars to study.

"We live in a beautiful part of Texas. Beautiful forests and lakes as well as clean air and water of good quality and good people – but there are no jobs, "he said. "And people will migrate to where the job opportunities exist."

Paul Flahive can be reached by email at paul@tpr.org or via Twitter @pulflahive,

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