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Thread: What's up in rural economic development?

  1. #1
    Member japrovo's avatar
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    What's up in rural economic development?

    I might be moving from an urban setting in a "blue" state to a rural setting in a "red" state. Are there any thoughts out there on what's different about economic and community development practice in the heartland? Beyond scale, are there any metropolitan notions I should dispense with in micropolitan America?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    I've found that the differences between metro and micropolitan areas can vary immensly in the U.S. Here's a few suggestions to consider:
    • Take a look at the existing development patterns, noting particularly the differences or similarities between historic and more recent development patterns. Learn why the pattern are or are not similar.
    • Review the U.S. Census data, and changes in them over the last three or more decades. Is the area attracting or losing young educated people? Why, or why not?
    • Try to get a feel for the community leadership structure, and note that you will find both formal (elected/appointed) community leaders and informal ones. You may find the informal leaders may have more "power" than the formal ones on certain community issues.
    • If your new locale is rural, you may benefit from reviewing some introductory rural sociology materials. Or the local newspaper - take your pick.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  3. #3
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Everything SGB said plus:

    See if the local government's minutes are on line, if so read them back for a couple of years or as many as they have.

    Check new housing starts data

    Check census trends over last couple of decades

    Find local newspapers online and search for issues.

    Other than that, it depends on how rural the place is some would say the Sioux City MSA was rural, but it doesn't act that way. My place on the other hand.... is RURAL!!
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  4. #4
    Cyburbian GeogPlanner's avatar
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    check out www.cdtoolbox.org

    there are some rural economic development tools there...
    Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after and only after the design is complete. (Often called the 'Now They Tell Us' Law) - Fyfe's First Law of Revision

    We don't believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans. -- George W. Bush , Scranton, PA -- 09/06/2000

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by japrovo
    I might be moving from an urban setting in a "blue" state to a rural setting in a "red" state. Are there any thoughts out there on what's different about economic and community development practice in the heartland? Beyond scale, are there any metropolitan notions I should dispense with in micropolitan America?
    Having grown up in small-town Michigan (and with lots of friends from other small-town Michigan locales), I'll say that if you happen to meet an elected official who has the same last name as a local road, get on his (rarely her) good side--their family has probably been there since the state was founded, and has probably been involved in local government since the local government was founded. In general, in fact, assume that any elected official has been in office forever, and his father before him. Assume that the family name therefore has phenomenal cosmic power attached to it, albeit informal power.

    The number of dynasty elected officials in small towns and townships is ludicrous, and they *will* be there longer than you will, so you can't try to work counter to them.

    I don't think it's just Michigan; a grad school friend of mine grew up in small town Texas, where the Mayor's office has jumped back and forth between two families for about 75 years.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Ah, yes. MonkeyFlower reminds me of another important rural development point: native vs. non-native.

    Anyone (including, especially, you) who was not born in or adjacent to the subject rural community is considered to be of suspect origins and thinking.

    If you have any urban mannerisms whatsoever, drop them pronto. Adopt the local vernacular and accent as quickly as possible, but in moderation. If you can't "speak the language," you've got a strike against you already.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Rural interactions are more personal than they are formal, and following in the same vein, the way you practice is going to be more personal. For example, every economic development class tells you that you have to have a regular program of business surveys every year or two to conduct a business retention program. Forget it. There are not that many businesses and you are going to be talking to their owners or managers often enough anyway. They won't fill out a survey or will at least think it is a waste of time, but they will give you valuable insight at the Chamber of Commerce banquet or if you drop by for an occassional visit.

    The same goes for things like code enforcement. Silt fence down? Don't think of writing it up. Get on the telephone and say "Hey, _____, I drove by your site on the way home last night and saw your silt fence was washed out. Do you suppose you can get somebody to fix it first thing tomorrow morning?" Most of them will do it right away, but they would get really PO'd if you made a big deal about it.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Have you seen / read this article in USA Today, June 28, 2004 -

    Small-town USA goes 'micropolitan'
    Not quite rural or metro, newly minted areas are ripe for growth

    By Haya El Nasser
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/2...8/6322662s.htm

    mentioned in the article has anybody read it
    Jack Schultz's Boomtown USA: The 7 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns.

    Q. Anybody live/work in newly designated "Mircopolitan Statistical Area" ?
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  9. #9
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA

    mentioned in the article has anybody read it
    Jack Schultz's Boomtown USA: The 7 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns.
    No, but I will now.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  10. #10

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    The USA Today article is very interesting.

    Do not forget that rural folks tend to live in the past. Local officials' perception of the local economy tends to average about 15 years behind, and the general public's is often worse. It is often extremely helpful to take your leadership through the basic economic data describing their community in a hands-on way. That way they do not have to believe you, they can see for themselves. The Sonoran Institute has a lot of experience doing this in workshops. You can obtain their EPS (economic profile system) on-line at <sonoran.org> and if the place you may be moving is in the West, you may be able to obtain assistance directly from SI or from SI via your local BLM field office or district.

    Beyond remembering how slowly perceptions of local economies evolve, and how personal everything can be a la Cardinal's advice, it is incredibly important to know about the rural inferiority complex. Rural communities generally have a lot of pride on the surface and a huge lack of confidence underneath. I think the key is helping folks see what their assets really are.

    There is a lot more on this in our book, The Planning for Results Guidebook, Practical Advice for Building Successful Rural Communities, which can be ordered from the National Ass'n of Counties. There is an order form at the Sonoran Inst. web site.

  11. #11
    Member japrovo's avatar
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    Thanks all. Helpful stuff.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    One other thing is that I see a lot of people from the city react with disgust at a large number of things that people in more rural areas deal with from day to day. Working as a project in an exurb, I saw other students talking about how it should be illegal to commute so far, how disgusted they were by the 'ignorant hicks', and so on.
    Even if you only let yourself do this in private, it will show. People in rural areas aren't just downtown city dwellers from a smaller city. They do things differently because the pressures they face are different. While the city types think of people from rural areas as ignorant and backwards hicks, the people from rural areas are often irritated with city dwellers' ignorant and foolish ideas and superiority complexes.
    A lot of the thought processes are pretty different - for instance, recently there was an often-circulated story about someone being injured when a dog he was shooting managed somehow to press the trigger. Reactions to the story were sharply divided in discussion - people from urban areas cheered at the person being charged with cruelty and cursed at the man's 'foolishness', while every single person I have heard talk about the story from an urban area has reactions such as 'So?' or being aghast that a law would exist to encourage such a morally reprehensible act as taking animals to someone else to kill to 'wash one's hands of it' (often considering the man involved to be more responsible for it) or some other version of confusion at the underpinnings of the story.

  13. #13

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    I can't decide which set of reactions amuses me more. I have had lots of chances lately to watch rural folks try to figure out how one drives through a roundabout, and I have to confess to being entertained. Watching folks fresh from the city trying to adapt can be equally interesting.

    The urban superiority complex does show through, of course, and in ways that are quite aggravating to me, as a rural person who has learned to set aside his share of the rural inferiority complex (its harder to do than you might think), but I am more than a little amazed at how rural folks will stand for it.

  14. #14
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    It's this sort of rural bashing that sends me on my rants. It is different out here. We need our cars because its 30 miles to most services. For the same reason many of us need SUVs up here in snow country. City living isn't for everyone, and to suggest that it is the only "right" way to live is silly.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  15. #15
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Or

    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Rural interactions are more personal than they are formal, and following in the same vein, the way you practice is going to be more personal. For example, every economic development class tells you that you have to have a regular program of business surveys every year or two to conduct a business retention program. Forget it. There are not that many businesses and you are going to be talking to their owners or managers often enough anyway. They won't fill out a survey or will at least think it is a waste of time, but they will give you valuable insight at the Chamber of Commerce banquet or if you drop by for an occassional visit.

    The same goes for things like code enforcement. Silt fence down? Don't think of writing it up. Get on the telephone and say "Hey, _____, I drove by your site on the way home last night and saw your silt fence was washed out. Do you suppose you can get somebody to fix it first thing tomorrow morning?" Most of them will do it right away, but they would get really PO'd if you made a big deal about it.
    Or they could tell you to go to hell and that if they ever catch you on their land, they will ____________ (add disturbing threat) you.

    or they could claim you belong to part of a larger and more ruthless ideology bent on ruining the lives of ordinary country folk...
    Skilled Adoxographer

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