Building Assets for the Rural Future
This publication offers more than eighty examples of programs engaged in asset-building activities in rural areas, divided among twenty-two asset-building tactics. The tactics are arranged into seven broad strategies as follows:
Rural Financial Assets
1. Improve financial resilience. This strategy involves building community and individual financial assets—ranging from charitable foundations to individual savings accounts—to help weather economic crises and to seed opportunistic ventures at both the community and individual level.
2. Apply asset-building to traditional economic development. Traditional economic development activities include offering incentives for recruitment and job creation, nurturing industry clusters, and supporting entrepreneurs. This strategy examines how those traditional activities can create asset-building opportunities for communities and individuals.
Rural Natural Assets
3. Expand and protect rural economic activities that preserve natural assets. Some rural livelihoods are defined by and depend upon access to arable land and fishable waters. Certain economic activities are particularly compatible with preserving a community’s natural assets, and this strategy focuses on increasing those compatible activities.
Rural Built Assets
4. Secure competitive community infrastructure. Rural areas possessing key infrastructure, such as broadband access and historic downtowns, hold a comparative advantage over other communities. This strategy addresses ways to build and protect such infrastructure.
5. Maximize asset-building potential of affordable housing. Homeownership is an important component of asset-building. It not only builds the owner’s individual financial assets, but it also leads to broader societal benefits, such as greater participation in voluntary organizations and higher educational attainment among children. This strategy examines methods for expanding the asset-building potential of housing for those on the economic margin.
Rural Human, Social, and Cultural Assets
6. Improve work skills and health of rural populations on the economic margin. The productive capacity of residents is pivotal in rural communities, where every available skill in their relatively smaller populations must be put to good use. Investments in work skills and health build the human assets that rural communities require in order to compete in the global economy.
7. Connect to local talent and culture. Rural communities that are home to residents with an abundance of local talent or unique cultural attributes possess an invaluable community asset. This strategy examines ways to retain those residents and connect them to the community for mutual benefit.
Each of the seven strategies listed above contains several supporting asset-building tactics that promote the broader strategy. For example, under the second strategy, “Apply asset-building to traditional economic development,” several supporting tactics are provided:
2.1. Maximize Asset-Building Potential of Capital Investment and Economic Development Incentives
2.2. Identify Rural Industry Clusters
2.3. Support Rural & Low-Wealth Entrepreneurs
Each of those supporting asset-building tactics is then described in detail: the opportunity presented and what rural communities stand to gain by employing the tactic; illustrations showing how organizations have employed that tactic around the country; the community assets that are leveraged or enhanced by the tactic; and suggestions as to where rural leaders can learn more about the tactic.