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. 

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.

North Carolina Textiles

Rethreading a textile heritage: One stitch at a time

A robust textile manufacturing industry once supported generations of artisans and their communities in western North Carolina. But the last two decades have seen mills close, jobs lost and lives changed due to outsourcing. Now, a unique collaboration between a worker-owned firm, an innovation center, a county economic development organization and local mills is meeting a growing demand for domestic, environmentally-friendly textile production and bringing new hope to the place they call home.

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.