Building Assets for the Rural Future

Secure Competitive Community Infrastructure

Secure Competitive Community Infrastructure

Infrastructure provides the foundation for economic growth and job creation.[1]  However, economically distressed rural communities generate less tax revenues and face higher per capita infrastructure costs due to low density of population, making it difficult to finance infrastructure.[2]  Indeed, low-income households in North Carolina have lower rates of access to public services such as  plumbing, phone, and broadband.[3] Infrastructure concerns have long been recognized and are addressed in the state through a variety of programs.  For example, the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center administers three grant programs that fund water and wastewater planning and construction.[4] It is sometimes necessary, however, for rural communities to supplement such programs with locally-initiated infrastructure programs.                   

Three key infrastructure tactics emerged in interviews for this publication. The first aims to build the infrastructure required to compete in the global economy, namely broadband Internet (Construct Next-Generation Infrastructure).  The second addresses the role of historic downtown revitalization (Revitalize Rural Downtowns).  The third focuses on disaster preparedness as a means of preserving a community’s infrastructure and wealth (Prepare for Natural Disasters). Infrastructure for exporting renewable energy was discussed earlier (3.4. Expand Rural Role in Renewable Energy and Ecosystem Services, page 84).

[1] See Faqir S. Bagi, Economic Impact of Water/Sewer Facilities on Rural and Urban Communities, 17 Rural America 44, 45-46 (2002) (reciting economic benefits resulting from water and sewer projects funded by the Economic Development Administration); Peter Steinberg, et al., Broadband Internet’s Value for Rural America 20-21, 31-39 (2009).

[2] See Leslie A. Whitener & Tim Parker, Policy Options for a Changing Rural America, 5 Amber Waves 58, 64 (2007) (noting that rural communities often have difficulty adapting their infrastructure to a growing population).

[3] See U.S. Census Bureau, Units in Structure, Householder 65 Years and Older, and Household Below Poverty Level: 2000 North Carolina.

[4] For more information on water programs administered by the NC Rural Center, see http://www.ncruralcenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=249:water-2030-early-water-projects&catid=45