Demand for Rural Community Businesses at an All Time High

Feb 9, 2021

Entrepreneurs have gravitated to the city centers of Seattle and Portland in the Pacific Northwest throughout my life.  My view of the region’s urban centers up until 2020 was similar to Petula Clark’s in her famous song, Downtown (, which has the following chorus:

So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for you

My father owned a downtown veterinary hospital, Washington Park Pet Clinic, which was in the same business association with Bud Clark, the owner of the Goose Hollow Inn, and a future mayor of Portland.  Two good friends growing up had a mother that owned a card & stationary shop in an urban mall, The Galleria, that was the go to location for everything from birthday cards to wedding invitations and a father who owned the piano and organ store next to the public library. I lived in the same neighborhood and went to high school with one of the kids from the family that owns the Ringside Steakhouse, a legendary American restaurant. Downtown was definitely the place to be in Portland for business opportunity and personal enjoyment.  Similar connections and memories exist for Seattle, where I moved for the first time in 1990, with New Year’s Eves at the Space Needle, meeting my wife, of now 20+ years, over a game of billiards at Chicago’s across from Key Arena, and visiting establishments like the J&M Café and Olympia Pizza & Spaghetti House, which were owned by friends.  Unfortunately, local government policies in Portland & Seattle that do not support and protect small businesses and the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically changed the downtown environments in the Emerald & Rose cities. I hope and pray they return as vibrant economic communities, but today they are ghost towns.

This environment has created a flight of people and capital out of the cities looking for business opportunities for purchase in rural communities in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, the geographic area severed by IBA as the region’s oldest business brokerage firm since 1975. Historically, rural businesses have been more difficult to sell than urban ones as the number of interested buyers has been diminished due to smaller, local population, a lack of desire to relocate, spousal employment, and children in school.  The need to overcome the hurdle of family relocation created a market dynamic with increased importance on accentuating the benefits of a business, community, and the professional sales skills of the business broker, as the distinct possibility existed that it could be months until another quality buyer was located, if a deal was not successfully negotiated with a “bird in hand” motivated, financially qualified buyer with relevant experience.  Despite this market dynamic, IBA successfully sold businesses in locations ranging from Forks and Point Roberts to Moses Lake and Chelan in Washington and North Bend, Medford, and Pendleton in Oregon before the pandemic.

However, since the arrival of COVID-19 in Kirkland early last year, market demand for rural community businesses has increased significantly.  In recent months, we have seen multiple offers on a business in Winthrop, Washington with one of the buyers losing out on that opportunity migrating and purchasing another business with real estate represented by IBA in the same town a couple of months later.  Winthrop is a “magical town” in the North Cascades, but as a case example IBA has sold three businesses in that town of approximately 500 people in the last year versus only a couple in Okanogon County over the last couple of years pre pandemic. Even industries as challenged as hospitality are seeing transactions completed in rural communities by IBA.  This week we successfully completed the sale of Ocean Shores favorite, Mike’s Seafood (, put a deal in escrow in Tri-Cities, and are starting the process of bringing to market a wonderful restaurant in the Willamette Valley.  IBA is uniquely qualified in the Pacific Northwest to support the sale of rural businesses with physical offices in Bellevue, Portland, and Spokane; a double digit team of knowledgeable, experienced, highly skilled business brokers; and the ability to comprehensively represent an owner in both the sale of a business and the real estate, when the property is owned by the same person, as real estate professionals.  If you own a business in a rural community and would like to explore a potential sale while market demand is high, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and provide an overview of our client services.  100% of IBA’s fees are payable upon completion of a transaction and all information shared is held in strict confidence.  As further evidence of this trend across the United States, the following article from the Wall Street Journal is offered (

IBA is a seller focused representation firm that does not traditionally represent business buyers.  However, if you are looking to buy a business and want to be proactively informed about the diverse, quality business opportunities represented for sale by IBA, we do maintain a buyer database program where qualified buyers are provided the first opportunity to evaluate new companies represented by IBA for sale when they first enter the market.  Each year approximately 20% of the companies IBA represents for sale sell to participants in this program without substantial exposure to the general market.  Now is currently a great time to buy a business with the wonderful Small Business Administration backed loan products being offered by the United States government to encourage entrepreneurship.  These programs include historically low interest rates, waiver of up to six months principal and interest payments, and mitigated origination fees. Finally, for entrepreneurs who identify a community where they would like to live, but no business is available to purchase, another option available is to purchase a franchise and locate it in the community.  IBA has the ability to facilitate research and the purchase of new franchises in any community in the United States.   If you would like to learn more about IBA’s buyer database program, buying a new franchise, or receive a referral to a quality, experienced banker who specializes in SBA backed business acquisition loans, IBA’s VP of Business Development, Curt Maier, is available to answer your questions and provide assistance.  Mr. Maier can be reached at (425) 454-3052 or

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, accounting, legal, wealth advisory, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.