Clint Koble loves rural America and its small communities. As Northern Nevada’s SBDC Rural Business Counselor, he spends nearly all his time there. From Elko to Battle Mountain to Lovelock and south to Carson, Minden, Gardnerville and Yerington, you’ll find Clint on the move, meeting with small businesses and entrepreneurs. SBDC provides free and confidential business counseling to new and existing small businesses.
“I enjoy helping someone chase their dreams,” he says. “I like to be positive and reinforcing, and at the same time, it’s my job to be brutally honest. I have to tell them that their plan may not work. And I have to help them develop contingency plans in case that happens.”
Clint is adamant about the importance of rural America to the fabric of our economy.
“Two percent of our population grows food for the other 98%,” he points out. “Our fresh water, food, fiber, minerals, energy sources, and major transportation links are all located in these rural areas. Yet only 16% of the country’s population lives there, the lowest amount in history.” As anyone who has traveled through these small towns has observed, the loss of population has led to a decline in local businesses. Those that survive are challenged by the tremendous pace of technology-driven change.
Clint was born and raised in north central North Dakota, the second oldest of seven siblings. He lived on a 2,000-acre family farm with row crops and hay, as well as beef and dairy herds.
“I developed the value system that I have today from my upbringing. I learned the importance of the family unit, of working together, and having a strong work ethic.”
After college, he found his way into the fitness club industry and then into the resort and hospitality sector. But his heart remained in small town America, and he eventually returned. He worked for the Nevada Rural Development Council, a non-profit focused on economic development, and then was appointed to head up Nevada’s office of the Nevada Farm Services Agency of the USDA. There he helped implement and enforce farm bills and programs, and worked closely with farmers, ranchers and Tribes.
“Rural America is under a lot of stress,” Clint explains. “We have to keep reinvesting in these communities. There’s so much change right now.”
He cites Winnemucca as an interesting example of a small, rural community that is rising to the challenge.
“It’s a town that wants to protect its future, and it’s a community willing to invest. Winnemucca is normally dependent on mining, but they just built a brand-new Boys and Girls club, did a $50 million-dollar expansion to their hospital, and recently added a large new hotel and casino. They’ve also embraced the arts, education and the environment. It’s a well-balanced community, with a large number of dedicated, community-driven, well-trained, and well-educated people. Even though their population is less than 8,000, they’re thinking about, worrying about, and planning for their future.”
Clint believes that community pride and entrepreneurship is key to the future of small towns.
“These are communities that deal in trust, in face-to-face interactions. A handshake and a smiling face still mean a lot,” he observes. “There’s still opportunity for locally-owned and operated businesses.”
With the improving economy, Clint has seen more lending to small businesses, but financing can be a challenge in rural Nevada.
“Businesses that are related to agriculture and mining can stillfind access to capital. So do service businesses that support those industries, such as companies who provide heavy equipment and tools, or skilled labor such as welders and mechanics. We’re also seeing increasing investments in indoor ag and hydroponics.”
Clint is encouraged by meeting a lot of young Nevadans with “entrepreneurship in their DNA.”
“They see the world as they want it, not as it’s been seen, and they have big imaginations. They can be experts in a moment’s notice–they can get so much information online. They have access to templates for business plans and cash flow statements. The people I meet with now are more well-read and their plans are better researched today, compared to 5-10 years ago.”
He cited a recent meeting with an aspiring bakery owner who had extensive experience in the industry, and presented him with strong business plan.
After their first meeting, Clint assigned her to do more detailed research on her competition, produce a monthly profit and loss statement, and plan more for operating capital. He’s optimistic about her chances because of her experience and knowledge, as well as her commitment.
“She’s willing to do whatever it takes, including waiting until she’s better prepared,” he notes. “Many aspiring business owners don’t seek help with their plan until they’ve made critical decisions, like signing a lease or cashing out their retirement account. That is usually the kiss of death.”
“I like to be positive, and if they are doing what they need to do, I’ll be their biggest cheerleader,” he says. “But I’m also willing to be brutally honest to save them from themselves.”
Free and confidential counseling from the NV SBDC is available with Clint on alternating Tuesdays at Adams Hub, 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM. He can help business owners improve the performance of existing businesses as well as guide an aspiring entrepreneur through the creation of a full business plan.
Interested in SBDC counseling? Contact the Nevada Small Business Development Center at www.nsbdc.org, and on the home page, click on “request counseling,” answer a few questions about the business, and you’ll be contacted within 24-48 hours to set up your session.