Economic Development Success Stories

Appalachia Energy Efficiency

Clean and lean: Building wealth... efficiently!

Appalachian Kentucky, where coal has been king, is a region in need of new economic engines. Persistent poverty and high unemployment mark the landscape. There is hope, however, in clean energy market opportunities that emphasize energy efficiency and renewable sources. Thanks to the leadership of a long-standing, multi-strategy organization, the area’s clean energy sector is growing, and in a way that creates economic opportunities for low-income employees and contractors, retrofits homes, reduces energy consumption for local residents and businesses, and builds wealth across the region.

Appalachia Wood Products

Wealth from forests: Doing wood right

Small sawmills and woodworking shops — a staple across central Appalachia — have been hit hard by rising overseas competition and the recent economic recession. Early attempts to encourage a viable green construction materials industry in the region fell short of the mark. But a new social enterprise is showing success, by providing a clearinghouse for a network of wood products manufacturers to qualify and supply their products to the flourishing green construction builders in the region and beyond. The decentralized business model offers a win-win for everyone involved — and holds promise for a more sustainable, revitalized forest and wood products sector in the region.

Arkansas Biofuels

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. An immediate goal: Grow small business that can employ graduates from the local two-year college system — in this case with practical skills in biofuel and diesel motor technology, electrical engineering and fuel testing. The longer-term goal: Position the Delta region as a national leader in both small-scale biofuel production and energy self-sufficiency. 

Black Belt Arts and Crafts

Education Amplifies Arts and Crafts Value Chain

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. These partners identified individuals with a wealth of artistic talent throughout the 19-county Black Belt region and working in a variety of heritage crafts and fine arts.  

Deep South Community Agriculture

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 serve local customers in three budding “hot spots,” to increase their yields and application of sustainable farming practices, to develop capacity and inroads to access larger markets, to engage young people — and to redefine farming as a path to prosperity.

Mid-South Food LINC

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

Mid-South Food LINC

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. Communities Unlimited (CU), a nonprofit community development organization that works in seven southern states, 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.

Montana Entrepreneurship

Lewistown, MT: Building Strength from the Center

Montana RCAC

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.  Therefore, it’s only fitting that Lewiston is also at the center of exciting economic and community development initiatives underway in the heart of central Montana

New Hampshire Recreation

Rec after hours: Human-powered recreation brings partners together

The Spoke'n Word

The bonds between natural resources, communities, and generations of travelers run deep in New Hampshire’s North Country, home of the White Mountain National Forest. 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.

New Mexico Cooperatives

Cooperative Model Brings People Together

In Mora, New Mexico, approaching challenges cooperatively has created benefits and opportunities for this small, rural community. Most residents are low income, and many are also of Native American or Spanish descent. The local nonprofit 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, providing a base to retain or welcome back young adults and to integrate newer residents.

North Carolina Textiles

Employee Ownership Pays Off

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.

Oregon North Coast Seafood

Lifting All Boats in Northwest Oregon

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.

Southeast Ohio Food

Marketing Scales up Regional Food Systems

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.  Farmers can market directly to household consumers and to buyers for restaurants, food banks, schools, and hospitals through the Chesterhill Produce Auction, a food hub that aggregates produce at two weekly auctions during the growing season of May – November each year.

Upper Peninsula Tourism

Come on UP: The Great Waters fine!

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) is a region rich in natural, cultural and tourism assets, but until recently, these assets were disconnected from the outside world and one another. Building on a creative vision and strategic commitment of a regional non-profit, eastern UP stakeholders came together to collectively develop and market the region as a must-see tourist destination. Today, new visitors are streaming in from all over to visit The Great Waters — and to explore an emerging world-class mix of landscapes, heritage, recreation, local food and lively culture. This dynamic tourism mashup is raising local bottom lines — and the region’s prospects.