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) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. 2012 trends for rural small businesses.

Rural small-business trends

typically differ from the general industry and next year the continued troubled economy is likely to polarize rural businesses from their urban counterparts even further -- but, surprisingly, in a good way.

Rural small businesses look promising in 2012, says

Small Business Trends

in listing top trends for small towns including: strong farm commodity prices contributing to improved local economies, particularly as investors look for "safer" investment classes; strong oil and natural gas prices meaning a continued boom in production, leading to a general surge in economies surrounding these areas; and "ruralsourcing" competing with global outsourcing to bring manufacturing and IT service jobs into rural areas.

One negative going into next year for rural small businesses is the effect of state government budget cuts and how that will trickle down. Two rural mainstays that will likely be hurt: tourism and arts funding, the article says.

2. Franchises expected to recover in 2012.

After three years of restrained growth due to the recession and its lingering effects,

franchise businesses

show signs of recovery in the year ahead, according to The International Franchise Association's

Franchise Business Economic Outlook

released Monday.

The forecast is for modest growth in the number of establishments, employment, output and contributions to U.S. gross domestic product.

It's no secret business growth has been constrained over the past few years as a result of the recession and lack of credit availability -- franchises included. The report estimates real GDP to increase 1.8% in 2012, consumer spending growth at 2.2%, a continued sluggish recovery in the housing market and slower economic growth abroad. The report predicts a number of franchise businesses in 2012 will accelerate and there will be modest growth in employment and economic output, though.

Among franchise industries, "personal services" franchises are expected to be a "growth leader," followed by retail products and services. Real estate will also grow, albeit from a low base. And all segments will experience job growth next year.

For the full report, go to the

IFA's Web site


3. White House Q&A with women entrepreneurs.

Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest-growing segments of the small-business community, but women continue to face challenges, including access to capital and lack of opportunities to grow. Today at 3 p.m. EST, the White House National Economic Council and the Small Business Administration will hold a question-and-answer session for female business owners to learn more about the federal government's policies and programs for them.

There's a

live feed

and participants can submit questions through the

White House's Facebook

page, its Twitter page (using the hashtag #WHChat) or through its

Web form for comments


-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to:


To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to:!/LKulikowski


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