Rural Economies Still Struggle Nationwide

Rural counties are struggling the hardest to recover from the economic downturn, reports Governing Magazine. Rural residents who once depended on timber, farming, coal mining and manufacturing for lifelong careers now suffer from a dearth of opportunities in these industries – and most of the post-recession jobs replacing them are locating in urban centers. While Governing focuses on rural Oregon by way of example, the magazine finds,

There’s a similar problem throughout rural America. While some metro areas are thriving, two out of three rural counties have experienced a net loss in their total number of businesses since 2010, after the recession had technically ended. According to a recent report by the Economic Innovation Group, half the new businesses started throughout the nation since 2010 were created in just 20 counties, out of more than 3,000 nationwide.

Urban America recovers from recessions, but rural America no longer seems able to.

As a result, rural populations are dwindling, and rural counties, which cannot simply cease operations, are have significant difficulty running facilities like jails and operations like code enforcement. Moreover, these local governments must grapple with new challenges, such as aging populations, drug abuse and homelessness – all at least in part due to their weakening economies.

Rural economies once ran on commodities — timber, corn, cattle, coal — that by their nature were essentially the same regardless of where they came from. In today’s economy, though, places have to find a way to offer something that other similar places can’t.

The article points out that in rural Oregon, local fishermen are connected to telecommunications companies to recommend spots to locate Trans-Pacific cables. It also points out the importance of local and state governments working together to solve these uniquely rural dilemmas.

The different local entities have learned that scratching each other’s backs and putting up money for projects of shared interest can end up benefiting everyone. … Experts in the rural economy say what separates the winners from the many losers is inspired leadership on the ground[.]


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