Growing Prosperous Rural Communities

Posted on 9/14/2017 by Robin Scheu


This week’s post is written by Don Macke, Co-Founder and Director of Entrepreneurial Communities at the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’ve been following the CRE’s work for many years and am very pleased to say that ACEDC has engaged them to help us develop a rural economic development strategy for Addison County. Their research will provide us with the foundation to expand on identified opportunities that are specific to Addison County. You will hear more about this in the months to come, and this will be the focus of our Annual Meeting on December 1 at the Middlebury Inn.

You can find the original post here.

Strategic Community Development

Most communities - or at least organizations within communities - engage in "strategic planning." These processes often involve a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and some brainstorming with community residents to hear what they see as critical community issues. But, how strategic are these activities really? Often they focus on what needs to be addressed in the next 3-5 years. But, for rural communities in particular, the top-of-mind issues today may be the product of a generation of change - population loss, major changes in the underlying economy, loss of critical community infrastructure like a school or hospital.

In our work with communities, we have come to embrace what we call "strategic community development" with the goal of increasing and sustaining prosperity through investments of time, talent and treasure to ensure that the community is vibrant, successful, thriving - a great place to live and work - in a generation (about 25 years); the kind of place children and grandchildren can uncompromisingly call home. Through our current work in Nebraska, we've articulated several attributes of strategic community development. You can see more of our thinking here, but we'll share two important attributes. One, every community, regardless of size, location or situation, can only achieve sustained and long-term success by understanding and addressing three essentials - demographic renewal, creating rooted economic opportunities, and quality of life place-making. While each community will have its own unique assessment of these essentials, creating a development vision and strategy that addresses all three is paramount. Two, strategic community development requires a community to have a deep and objective view of its historical development and projected trend lines with respect to demography, economy and competitiveness of place. It is essential that communities use robust research and analysis as they craft a solid community vision and development strategy.