The Social Networks of Rural Business Owners in East Central Alberta

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  • Rural business owners in Alberta are often described as independent minded entrepreneurs. The reality is that they do engage in social networking. This project focussed upon the social networks that help rural business owners access markets beyond their local area. The data were provided by the self-employed business owners who engaged in specialized agricultural and non-agricultural business operations in the geographic area defined by the East Parklands Community and Business Development Corporation headquartered at Mirror, Alberta. Six networks are examined: intimate, friendship, broker, professional, governmental and volunteer. The results suggest that owners rely upon their intimate networks for practical and emotional support. The professional networks neither encourage nor discourage the business activity, while the governmental networks are not accessed to their full advantage. Associational networks provide information to the business owners through journals, magazines and publications. Rural business owners belong to these volunteer networks, but often are not active participants. The structure of the networks suggests that the non-agricultural owners are moving away from the gemeinschaft-like strong bonds of the intimate and friendship networks. They are developing what are called \"weak-ties\" with broker and specialized networks that include trade shows, producers or similar products or through the conferences. Agricultural owners, however, are continuing their strong relationships within the friendship networks to develop and sell their product. These networks provide fewer opportunities for market expansion than do the broker-type networks.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International