Rural communities in the South continue to face serious challenges in getting highly educated students to return home after college graduation. Research indicates that education may be a cause and effect for this rural “brain drain” phenomenon, and also the key to reversing the trend. Studies have shown that efforts to improve rural education contribute to rapid economic development in those areas, while a more educated community can serve as a catalyst for business expansion and increased civic engagement. This complimentary webinar, presented by CSG South/SLC, highlights the impact of education on rural development and examines initiatives in rural communities to entice educated former residents to return and invest in their hometowns.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “the reports of Rural America’s death are greatly exaggerated.” In fact, at least four major trends are helping improve the future of rural America: broadband, telemedicine, job training and new methods to attract young people to farming all offer hope.

CSG Midwest
In the not-so-distant past, “non-existent” would have been an apt term to describe the Midwest’s farm winery and craft beer industries. As recently as the year 2000, only 300 acres were in grape production.

But today, ethanol isn’t the only alcohol being produced in this region. There has been big growth in the beer and wine industry, a trend that is allowing for more diversity in farm production and helping expand local and statewide agri-tourism.

The winery and craft beer industries are moving out of the hobby stage and making an estimated $10 billion contribution to the economies of Midwestern states. More than 12,000 acres of grapes and 600 craft brewers now call the Midwest home. This growth has been fueled not only by the development of winter-hardy varieties of grapes, but also by more-supportive government policies.
CSG Midwest logo
With its cluster of farming, industry leaders such as DuPont Pioneer and John Deere, and a large land-grant university, central Iowa is already a hub of economic activity centered on agriculture and bioscience. But state, local, business and university leaders believe the region still has much untapped potential.

Their response: Join together on a new Cultivation Corridor initiative, which creates new partnerships among regional leaders in economic development, education and bioscience and aims to market central Iowa as the home of“science that feeds the world.”

If successful, the initiative will also help grow the entire Iowa economy by drawing new investments to the state and attracting and retaining talent and business.

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—There’s a rich history of entrepreneurs in Tennessee. From FedEx founder Fred Smith to hospital management company HCA, entrepreneurs have thrived in the Volunteer State.
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Stateline Midwest ~ June 2012

Across the Midwest there is expected to be significant turnover this year in state legislatures. And particularly after another round of redistricting, agriculture’s voice in the legislature is at risk of being drowned out as more districts become urban or suburban, a shift that has been occurring for decades.

The Midwestern Legislative Conference and The Council of State Governments were represented at a recent meeting of the White House Rural Council in Washington, D.C. Formed in June by presidential executive order, the council is being led by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and is focusing on how the federal government can help foster economic growth in rural areas. 

State agriculture departments increasingly are branding produce and goods to guide a variety of purchasing choices. Whether influencing state residents to buy local produce or promoting exports to other states and countries, states are increasing their agriculture markets. 

Rural states should prepare to have fewer federal dollars in their economies.  The Obama administration has proposed cuts in USDA funding and Congress has announced a ban on earmarks, which have historically been a boon to some rural areas.

Kansas lawmakers are hoping the creation of Rural Opportunity Zones will help address a long-time concern in many parts of the state: the loss of population.

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