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Chabot Opening Statement at Hearing on Boosting Rural Digital Technology

Chabot Opening Statement at Hearing on Boosting Rural Digital Technology

WASHINGTON - The House Committee on Small Business met today for a hearing titled, "Flipping the Switch on Rural Digital Entrepreneurship."  Ranking Member Steve Chabot (R-OH) delivered the following opening statement: 

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.  Good morning to all of you and a special thank you to our witnesses who have taken the time to work with us on this hearing today.   

The use of digital technologies, including access to high-speed Internet and online tools, is gaining popularity in rural areas because of the opportunities they create for small businesses throughout the countryside. 

Increasingly, digital tools and platforms form the foundation of success for the modern day American small business.  Small businesses that use digital tools are more nimble, resourceful, and able to reach more potential customers. It’s no surprise that digitally-powered businesses earn twice the revenue and are three times more likely to create jobs. 

Unfortunately, there continues to be a lack of data about the rural aspect of the small business economy.  What we do know, however, is that 27 percent of rural residents still do not have access to a high-speed Internet connection.  In addition to this lack of infrastructure, rural areas lack skilled IT professionals to assist in the adoption of more advanced digital technology.

That is why this new report from the United States Chamber of Commerce is so timely and important.  The Chamber surveyed over 5000 small business owners in rural America about the economic impact of online tools and technology on their businesses.  Among other findings, they discovered that while the e-commerce ecosystem boosts sales and reduces costs for rural small companies, such firms are adopting digital tools at a pace much slower than their urban counterparts.

The study also found that greater use of digital tools and technology could increase greater economic potential for rural small businesses across the country.  With better access to digital tools and technology, the Chamber’s analysis shows potential economic benefits in rural areas that is far reaching.  For example, the study projects that gross sales for rural small firms could increase by an additional 20.8 percent over the next the years, the equivalent of $84.5 billion per year.  Such increases would also lead to an additional $46.9 billion to the United States Gross Domestic product, or GDP, and create over 360,000 jobs. 

I am looking forward to today’s discussion and a further examination of these exciting numbers and hearing suggestions about how we can increase the utilization of digital tools and technologies.  The goal, of course, is to unlock the vast potential that is out there in our rural small businesses. 

Finally, I’d like to thank Ms. Velázquez for holding this timely hearing.  I yield back.