Saturday, October 29, 2011

Whither Rural Wealth?

The Front Porch Republic links to  this Daily Yonder post about a southern Ohio effort to move from logging to value added and eco-friendly wood production.  As a creature of the Plains, I know little about logging and forests, so I won't comment about the particulars.  These paragraphs from early in the article seem spot on.
It’s pretty clear that old approaches to rural development (like issuing tax breaks to attract factories) don’t work all that well – but what else is there?
A lot of folks all over the country have been working on that question, and a group involved with the Ford Foundation has been trying to pull it all together and explain emerging practices as a single process. This group of Ford folks didn’t invent something new. They have tried to explain an approach to development and to create a system for how communities can better themselves and their economies.
We can call it a “wealth creation approach” to development.
Instead of trying to “attract” jobs over which rural communities have little control, this approach is about creating durable livelihoods by developing the assets that rural places do control. That includes natural assets like forests, farms, and wind rights as well as workers’ skills, social networks, and innovation. When rural communities develop these assets in response to market demand, when they connect with urban areas in ways that benefit both places, and when they focus on creating multiple kinds of wealth – that’s when they begin to create wealth and livelihoods that benefit rural places over the long haul.
It does strike me that South Dakota's political leadership hasn't gotten the memo that attracting factories may not be the best way to build "durable livelihoods."  Further, I can't remember the last time I heard any South Dakota Political leaders discussing "developing natural assets like forests, farms, and wind rights as well as workers’ skills, social networks, and innovation."  I guess they don't remember Joni Mitchell's warning in "Big Yellow Taxi."

 They must have missed the irony in the pop nature of this Counting Crows cover too.

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