Solutions and Prosperity


It is not enough to outline the problems: it is also imperative to capture solutions to evaluate and assess what may be customized to fit individual communities. There are many very exciting initiatives occurring throughout the country. California seems to be lagging in its support of rural communities. Some examples of California efforts are captured below. 

Broadband Access

  • Fischer, Klobuchar Lead 61 Senators in Bipartisan Letter to FCC on Rural Broadband Deployment (Senator Deb Fischer, May 15, 2018.) The senators write a letter that supports the advancement and the accessibility of broadband services in rural communities. They requested more predictable and long-term efficiencies with the goal of providing reliable and affordable communications to all Americans. This program will be critical for rural Americans who live in regions of the country where service is needed, but where deploying broadband access has been difficult and costly.


  • Rural, High-Performing Rankings, Measuring Health and Wellness in Similar Communities (UN News and World Report. 2018.) Rankings of the top 100 rural, high-performing counties across 10 categories. (Note: Mono and Inyo Counties were the only California counties to make the list.)
  • Rural California Towns Are Said to Be Dying. So Why is Little Gonzales Doing so Well? (Mathews, Joe. The Sacramento Bee. September 14, 2017.) “Despite its location in the high-poverty Salinas Valley, the city has a success story to share: relatively low crime, 95 percent high school graduation rates, new health facilities, sustainable infrastructure and a streak of economic development victories… Instead of chasing big retailers, Mendez wanted the city to focus on its own strengths and residents. So the city has enhanced its industrial footprint and taken advantage of its proximity to agriculture. Gonzales has no Costco but produces the vegetable trays you buy there.”
  • Building Prosperity in Rural Communities “Takes a Village” (Hartwick College, April 23, 2018.) “Hartwick College hosted 14 experts from towns, cities, municipalities, counties, plus state and federal agencies to begin an on-going dialogue about how to build prosperity in rural communities.” The moderator focused on three areas: 1)  infrastructure – e-connectivity was a major theme, 2) quality of life and 3) economic development – including building a workforce and access to capital.x
  • The National Rural Funders Collaborative: Rural Economic Development in a Diverse and Rapidly Changing Land (Briefing paper on California’s Central Coast Region presented at the August 1, 2008 Conference.) This briefing is around 10 years old but provides a great summary of history, race, and class on the Central Coast as well as recommendations for Central Coast Communities. “Communities of color in the Central Coast (as elsewhere) are very diverse, and special consideration must be given to developing place-based frameworks with each community that are also able to respond to trans-local political and economic forces. Increased attention must be given to labor rights for immigrants in agriculture and other sectors, and how this interacts with economic development, particularly around the thorny issue of immigration. Resources may be usefully invested in supporting communities in mapping out their assets, opportunities, and challenges in ways that can inform public policy, economic development strategies, and community mobilization.”
  • Why Some Rural Communities Prosper While Others Do Not? A Report to USDA Rural Development. (Isserman, Andrew, Feser, E, Warren, D. Univerity of Illinois, 23, 2007.) “The diverse theories considered focus on location, the economy, urban-rural linkages, highways and airports, human and social capital, diversity and homogeneity, knowledge and creativity, and climate and topography. Some of the statistical results support empirically what many rural people believe to be true: religious groups and other identities that bind people together can really matter. Some findings are more conventional. Rural communities with relatively more people with some college education are more likely to prosper, as are communities with vigorous, competitive, private economies. Others contradict conventional thought. Geographical factors that are impossible or expensive to change, including climate and distances to cities and major airports, are relatively unimportant in distinguishing between prosperous and other rural places. Rural development thinking that focuses on prosperity, instead of the usual focus on growth, provides different answers and insights. Prosperity is a useful, new lens through which to consider the rural condition and rural policy.                                               



  • Economic Development Strategic Plan for County of Monterey (County of Monterey Economic Development Department, 2011?) Monterey County (in partnerships with: multiple policy agencies, organizations, cities, county departments, academic institutions, and regional partners) proposes a new approach to economic development for the County. “This approach balances the attraction of new employers to the region with efforts to retain existing employers and nurture new entrepreneurial ventures. The central tenet of this approach is that the County can discover and capitalize on even greater opportunities through the integration of the key sectors of the region’s economy—tourism, agriculture, research and education, and community-based small business—in innovative configurations. The opportunities we elect to pursue should be designed around the following principles.

    • The natural beauty of the County will be preserved and valued as an economic asset.
      • All cities and communities across the county will benefit from the employment and benefits generated by economic opportunities.
      • Improving the preparation and skills of the County’s workforce will be essential to the success of the new regional economy.
      •  The stakeholders in the County’s economy must work cooperatively and collaboratively to realize new opportunities and develop new sources of growth.


  • North Carolina Rural Center, Building Vibrant Rural Communities Since 1987, The Rural Center has worked to improve the quality of life for the state’s rural people and places. We believe that our rural communities have inherent cultural value and are vital to the overall economic health of our state. We help communities articulate their vision, invest in building their assets and problem-solve through advocacy, business development, regional networks, nurturing leaders, and lending.



  • Government Agreement Could Help Rural Businesses (Hall, Jennifer. News-Press April 23, 2018)The SBA and the United States Department of Agriculture signed a Memorandum of Understanding recently that would promote stronger businesses and agricultural economies in rural America. The improvements include [connectivity,] investment opportunities, program delivery, innovation for technical assistance providers and aiding in providing tools to export products around the world. One of the key points to the collaboration would include capital access and investment, both public and private. More specifically, it would identify synergies between the $1 billion USDA Business & Industry fund and the $30 billion SBA and 504 loan programs available to small businesses.
  • Opportunity Zones (IRS, FAQ, 2018) An Opportunity Zone is an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. The intent is to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities. They provide tax benefits to investors. First, investors can defer tax on any prior gains until the earlier of the date on which an investment is sold or exchanged, or December 31, 2026, so long as the gain is reinvested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund. Second, if the investor holds the investment in the Opportunity Fund for at least ten years, the investor would be eligible for an increase in basis equal to the fair market value of the investment on the date that the investment is sold or exchanged.                             
  • California Opportunity Zones (Calfornia Department of Finance, Forecasting, Demographics, 2018) The federal tax bill passed in “December 2017 allows the Governor to designate certain census tracts as Opportunity Zones. Investments made by individuals through special funds in these zones would be allowed to defer or eliminate federal taxes on capital gains. The Governor can designate up to 25 percent of census tracts that have poverty rates of at least 20 percent or median family incomes of no more than 80 percent of statewide or metropolitan area family income. There are 3,516 census tracts in 54 California counties that would qualify under one or both of the mandatory criteria, allowing the Governor to designate up to 879 tracts. As census tracts are designed to capture geographic areas of around 4,000 people, more than 3 million Californians would potentially be located in one of these areas.” Preliminary recommendations are based on 1) Focus on Poverty, 2) Areas with Business Activity, and 3) Geographic Diversity.


  • Banks


  • Food Security

  • Government or Alternative Programs

    • SNAP Is A Boon to Urban and Rural Economies—and Small-town Stores May Not Survive [Proposed SNAP] Cuts (Reinhardt, Sarah. Union of Concerned Scientist, May 14, 2018.) “Small town grocery stores prevent food deserts. They provide access to healthy food, contribute to the local economy by creating jobs and generating tax revenue and act as community hubs where social capital is built and maintained. They also magnify the dollar spent. The standard USDA model estimates that, during a weak economy, $1 in SNAP spending generates about $1.80 in economic activity.                                      
  • Grocery Stores
    • Rural Grocery Initiative (Kansas Rural Center is serving as a partner with the KSU Center for Engagement and Community Development, 2007.) Since 2007, nearly one-third of supermarkets in Kansas communities under 2.500 have closed. Of the 675 communities in Kansas, t51% have no supermarket. The goal of this Initiative is to  discover solutions and seek new models that would allow our rural grocery stores to survive.
    • Grocers Find Rural Niche (Minto Daily News, April 14, 2018.) Small-town groceries adapt to remain successful in changing times by adding products and services, including delivery. Other grocery stores are resorting to a nonprofit model or to cooperatives.


  • Health Care

    • USDA Seeks Applications For Technology Grants To Expand Access To Health Care; Education In Rural Areas (Submitted by Carol A. Clark. LA Daily Post, April 15, 2018.) USDA is accepting grant applications from $50,000 – 500,000 for grants to use broadband e-Connectivity to improve access to health care and educational services in rural communities. The program is administered under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program). Grants focusing on opioids or STEM courses will receive priority points.                                   
    • Reinventing Rural Health Care, A Case Study of Seven Upper Midwest States (Bipartisan Policy Center. January 2018.) In 2017, input was solicited from 90 national thought leaders and key stakeholders on rural health care in the MidWest. Learnings: None of these exist in a vacuum and are interconnected:
      • Righsiging health care services to fit community needs
      • Creating rural funding mechanisms
      • Building and supporting the primary care physician workforce
      • Expanding telemedicine services

  • Health Services

    • Public Health Unveils Mobile Clinic to Service Rural Communities (Pierce, Harold. April 24, 2018) The $330,000, 40-foot-long bus has two exam rooms, an ADA-compliant bathroom and a sleek, contemporary design. It will “serve as a mobile clinic for public health staff to take to rural outlying towns like Shafter, Lake Isabella, Ridgecrest, Mojave, Arvin, Lamont, Wasco and Taft to supplement existing brick-and-mortar facilities. Services provided will include immunizations, tuberculosis testing and reproductive care services, among other things.
      It will make it much easier to obtain services…”




  • The Solution for Rural Infrastructure, Opinion. (Rep. Doug Lamalfa (R-Calif.) The Hill. May 17, 2018.) Smaller, rural counties don’t have the financial flexibility to navigate the maze of federal bureaucracies and red tape. Local agencies have also proven to be far more efficient with these projects, saving both time and money compared to federal estimates. For example, if local agencies have the authority to conduct their own environmental reviews for infrastructure projects and are able to identify a lead agency to coordinate and consolidate infrastructure project; this could streamline some of the obstacles that resource-poor rural agencies might encounter.                                                    



Resources: Coalitions, Foundations, NGOs

  • NeighborWorks America reports nearly $3.6 billion in rural economic impact in the fiscal year 2017 (Globe Newswire. May 15, 2018.) Members of the NeighborWorks network leveraged nearly $3.6 billion to serve rural America simultaneously creating 35,000 jobs in rural communities. Programs included: facilitating access to financial services, veterans assistance, rehab and weatherization programs, and housing programs.  Neighborhood Works is a 40-year-old, national, nonpartisan nonprofit that creates opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities, with emphasis on housing.                                                   
  • Center for Rural Entrepreneurship has a mission to help community leaders build a prosperous future by supporting and empowering business, social and civic entrepreneurs “to find new sources of competitive advantage in their inherent assets and invest in a new more prosperous future for both present and future generations through entrepreneur-focused development.” Our vision is to establish “communities where business entrepreneurs contribute to a more diverse and resilient economy; where social entrepreneurs contribute to a stronger non-profit sector, addressing a wide range of community issues and building an inclusive social fabric; and civic entrepreneurs contribute to the creation and operation of open, inclusive, innovative and effective government.”
  • Why [Private Sector] CEOs Are Pushing for Community Prosperity (Issacs, Kate. Chief Executive. November 3, 2017.) We are seeing “an expanded wave of corporate community involvement, in which companies reach beyond their walls to partner with public, private, and nonprofit organizations to build local prosperity. The business case? “If the economy is growing for everyone, that’s a good long-term bet for our shareholders,” says Peter Scher, head of Corporate Responsibility at Chase.” This requires leadership for long-term community prosperity: 1) Set the Right Tone, 2) Committed Caring, 3) Pragmatic, Not Partisan, and 4) Passionate Championship.
  • Agriculture in a Global Economy (Agricultural Symposium. July 17-18, 2018.) “The 2018 Agricultural Symposium, “Agriculture in a Global Economy” will explore the ways in which agriculture is positioned as a global industry and the implications of this global connectedness in the years ahead. The first day will explore the economic significance of agricultural trade and how businesses connected to agriculture view the merits of operating globally, now and in the future. The second day will focus on the role of cross-border labor and capital flows in the agricultural sector, how these flows affect agricultural and regional economies, and the corresponding link to future agricultural trade flows.”

Substance Abuse