Return of Cottage Industries in the 21st Century

Cottage industries are what sparked the industrial revolution that started in the 19th century. They were small businesses set up for a particular need of the surrounding community. The 21st century cottage industries are what this post is all about.

Cottage industries gave way to large corporations during the industrial revolution a little over a hundred years ago. Most cottage industries were in small towns while the big factories were in urban centers. That is at least a part of the cause of the current plight of rural America. But, given the Internet and robotics now it is quite possible that our primary growth in the coming decades will be from small manufacturers meeting a niche market demands across the world.

Robotics is quicklyreplacing manual labor on a large scale so soon it will not matter where the business is located. They won’t need to chase the lowest labor cost countries in order to be competitive. So, it seems natural that many of the things currently made in China and third world countries will naturally migrate back to the U.S. With companies like Amazon becoming the primary source of retail buying even local business will have a global market.

Will the resurrected cottage industries once again bring prosperity to rural America? I think, at least in a limited degree, that will happen. Let’s face it, big town living just isn’t for all of us, especially since we now find ourselves in a serious pandemic in major cities and this one will not be the last. Global warming will almost certainly bring up more viruses for us in the coming decades.

Some of us like to be able to stretch their arms and not hit a neighbor. I am one of those. Another coming trend that may cause cottage industries to flourish is that the rising generations just don’t put as much emphasis on competitive occupations as we boomers did. They seem to show that they are more inclined to value personal time and accomplishments over corporate advancement.

Maybe the phrase “what come around, goes around” applies here. Maybe that will be one of the consequences of Covid-19 in the coming years. Wouldn’t that be nice?

2 comments

  1. I have been reading several articles along the same lines: the virus will prompt a movement by many to less crowded living situations. Smaller cities and more rural settings have been safer than large urban areas during the pandemic.

    Working from home, using one’s skills to create a business, and the realization that no job is secure, could make the growth of cottage businesses one of the important take-aways from what we are living through.

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  2. Thanks for the thoughts Bob. I don’t think it can be discounted that the virus will move us even faster in some changes. I think virtual doctor’s visit, of which I have two scheduled already is one of the prime examples. I, like you, really believe 21st century cottage industry will outshine the mammoth corporations in the coming years.

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