Recently, the Battle Creek Enquirer released “Progress 2012, the Experts Edition“. Yes – Battle Creek (located in Calhoun County) is a metro area and yes – the Enquirer is a locally focused publication. However, take a quick look through the pages of Progress 2012 and you will see many familiar sentiments, comments and themes related to community and economic development. And, it is worth noting that four of the 18 contributing experts in the edition are Michigan Rural Council members.
This document encompasses a wide variety of areas that are all related to, and essential for, economic development. Similar to the Michigan Rural Council’s priority issue areas, there are articles related to health, education, asset based development, place making, philanthropy, regionalism, small business/micro enterprise support…the list goes on. There were three themes, however, that resonated with what rural communities face every day.
- Sustainable development – rural communities must assess what is truly sustainable over the long haul. As Alan Hooper notes in his piece, “Small towns just need a strategy that suits their situation”.
- Asset based development – it is important for rural communities to assess what already exists within their community and use those assets to their advantage. Mary Randolph, Executive Director of the Wyoming Rural Development Council, spearheaded a decade-long process of conducting community assessments in communities across Wyoming. That process “…empowered communities to put their future in their own hands, to dream big and make those dreams come true through hard work, teamwork and partnerships”. Mary will be joining us at the 2012 Small Town & Rural Development Conference; make plans to join us today if you’d like to hear more about this process.
- Sense of place – there are things that make rural communities unique, both from urban areas and even from neighboring communities. These things are what make small towns attractive to residents of all ages. Susan Baldwin, Mayor of Battle Creek, summed it up when she noted, “We want a community which recognizes that quality of life is critical to attracting talent. We need to create places where workers, entrepreneurs and businesses want to locate, invest and expand. We want a hometown where families play and grow”.
Take a moment to read through the Progress 2012 Experts Edition today and see what inspires you!