The Montrose Group released A Rural Development White Paper: A Mandate for Transformation timed in conjunction with a forum held in Circleville, Ohio before 100 economic development, business and community leaders focused on rural economic development. A copy of the white paper can be found at https://montrosegroupllc.com/2019/10/rural-development-whitepaper-a-mandate-for-transformation/.

Rural Communities across America face unique challenges and opportunities. Rural communities have grown economically slower than most urban counterparts driven by a lack of population growth and college educated workers needed by advanced services and tech companies as illustrated by a comparison of Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina rural counties. North Carolina’s rural communities are performing better than Ohio and Missouri but still lag far behind the booming metro regions of Raleigh and Charlotte and rural Ohio illustrates strengths with the income its residents earn. However, rural communities offer a low cost of living and competitive wage rates attractive to manufacturing companies as illustrated by the strong manufacturing base located in rural Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina but these rural regions must diversify their economy as manufacturing companies employ fewer and fewer people due to automation.

The Montrose Group recommends a rural community action plan based upon three strategies

  • Develop a centralized state leadership model that focuses energy and resources on rural communities to incentivize private investment
    • North Carolina’s Rural Infrastructure Authority focuses funding on rural communities
    • Ohio’s Rural Industrial Loan Program is primed to develop critical industrial sites
    • Ohio’s Rural University Program will support economic development, local government and public health in underserved rural markets
    • Focus on talent retention and attraction as it drives rural growth
    • Rural communities need to develop skilled workers through local workforce connections and development programs like PickawayWorks in Circleville, Ohio
    • Build connected communities through smart community and broadband enhancements to retain and attract younger talent in rural communities
    • Keep quality healthcare in rural communities through workforce development, funding, telemedicine and regulatory support
    • Redevelop rural historic Downtowns as a tool to attract younger workers to live, work and play through Historic Preservation Tax Credits, Downtown Redevelopment Districts, state grants and loans, New Market Tax Credits and Opportunity Zones
  • Focus on rural industrial and tech job centers while growing local companies
    • Capitalize on existing industry strengths to develop high-wage jobs in energy-intensive industries, advanced manufacturing, and technology industries
    • Launch attraction campaigns tied to energy-intensive industries from locally captured, reliable and affordable energy sources
    • Prepare industrial and logistics sites with flexible zoning, public infrastructure, tax incentives and compensation agreements to support development investment, attract industry and fund impacted local governments and schools
    • Capitalize on federal the Opportunity Zone Program to develop sites and promote residential, industrial, retail and commercial developments
    • Build rural technology initiatives tied to bringing IT work to rural regions, developing STEM workers, promoting access to capital and nurturing entrepreneurs to grow in rural regions

The Montrose Group provides corporate site location, economic development planning, project financing and lobbying services for public and private sector clients. Comments or questions for the Montrose Group can be directed to Dave Robinson, drobinson@montrosegroupllc.com or Nate Green, ngreen@montrosegroupllc.com.