Success Stories

These pdfs tell the story of communities taking different approaches to economic development and succeeding. The stories come from a variety of sectors from all across the United States.

Back to the future: Food, farms and renewal

The Deep South has a strong agricultural history, but too many resources are concentrated in the hands of a few. Now a group of African American farmers in Mississippi and Alabama are banding together to access larger markets, engage young people and redefine farming as a path to prosperity. 

Camelina: Biofuel for thought

Thanks to its agrarian roots, the Arkansas Delta has a surprisingly strong tradition of small business entrepreneurship. That enduring heritage may soon find renewed vitality, thanks to a breakthrough green energy technology, a group of enterprising family farmers, and a gutsy local development collaborative.

Clean and lean: Building wealth... efficiently!

Appalachian Kentucky, where coal has long been king, is a region looking for new economic engines. An unconventional mix of energy efficiency upgrades, creative financing and unprecedented partnerships is now bringing low-income residents, utility companies, shopkeepers, community service agencies and local firms to the same table to save energy and money while creating jobs and generating wealth for the region. 

Come on UP: The Great Waters fine!

Not long ago, typical visitors to Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula drove up from the Detroit area to visit family or friends, maybe fish or hunt a little. After a decade of local collaboration, new visitors are streaming in from all over to visit The Great Waters—and to explore a world-class mix of landscape, heritage, recreation, local food and lively culture.

Cooperative Model Brings People Together

In Mora, New Mexico, approaching challenges cooperatively has created benefits and opportunities for this small, rural community. Collaborative Visions, along with county commissioners, business owners, and a network of committed and connected community members work together toward a future that improves economic opportunity, quality of life, and environmental preservation.

Education Amplifies Arts and Crafts Value Chain

Creative individuals throughout the region create artistic products by quilting, basket making, pottery, sculpting, and woodworking. In the early 2000s, Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission, Ala-Tom Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D), and the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development worked together to inventory assets for a tourism initiative.  

Growing the Local Food Economy through the Mid-South Food LINC Value Chain

Growers in the Mississippi River Delta areas of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee have a long history and deep knowledge base of growing a variety of types of produce and other crops. The fertile Delta soil can produce nearly anything that consumers would want to purchase and eat. Communities Unlimited (CU)serves as a local food coordinator to identify market opportunities and areas with limited food access and make connections with area growers who are able to meet those needs.

Lewistown, MT: Building Strength from the Center

The small city of Lewistown is situated near the geographic center of Montana, a picturesque community that lies along the banks of Big Spring Creek surrounded by five mountain ranges.  Its location has inspired the town to embrace the slogan “Find Your Center” as part of its tourism promotion efforts.

Marketing Scales up Regional Food Systems

Southeast Ohio has a rich history of agricultural production. Farmers grow agricultural products in the region, and consumers need food and are interested in purchasing local foods, but effort from multiple partners was needed to connect the supply to the demand. Rural Action, ACEnet, and their partners work to increase economic success for the region’s residents by providing connections to potential buyers and seeking opportunities to add value to the region in several ways.  

Oregon North Coast Seafood

Efforts to develop the small-scale seafood value chain in Garibaldi and Tillamook County date back to 2013 when Rural Development Initiatives (RDI), an Oregon-based non-profit that supports economic development in rural communities, launched a pilot program to encourage rural regions throughout the state to explore the principles of WealthWorks, including building value chains and identifying assets and different forms of wealth.

Rec after hours: Human-powered recreation brings partners together

The bonds between natural resources, communities, and generations of travelers run deep in New Hampshire’s North Country. But efforts to increase tourism in high-amenity areas like this can threaten natural resources and their value to both residents and visitors. A network of partners determined to think in new ways sought strategies to grow the economy while mitigating potential harm.

Rethreading a textile heritage: One stitch at a time

Western North Carolina is home to an array of skilled textile workers. Successful pairing of demand for American-made textiles with the work of small firms in western North Carolina and regions in the surrounding states is making the region’s economy more resilient.  These businesses provide not just jobs for the region’s residents, but opportunities to build wealth and control of business decisions through employee ownership.

Wealth from forests: Doing wood right

Early attempts to encourage a viable green construction materials industry in Central Appalachia fell short of the mark. But a new social enterprise is showing success, thanks to a decentralized business model that offers a win-win for everyone involved—especially the region’s small, family-owned forests, sawmills and woodshops.