-- A variety of challenges facing rural America will require
a commitment to adapt to change in order for people living in these
areas to enjoy a productive, stable life, both socially and economically.
was the focus of a presentation titled "21st-Century Trends
and Rural America" made Wednesday by Dr. David Freshwater,
director of graduate studies for agricultural economics at the University
of Kentucky, during the 2004 Mississippi Rural Development Conference
at the Hattiesburg Lake Terrace Convention Center.
was among many expert presenters at the conference, which was co-sponsored
by The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for International
and Continuing Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
and economic issues that challenge rural America demand that new
ways of thinking be embraced by rural economic and political leaders.
"The rural respect for (values of) the past makes change hard
to embrace," Freshwater said, citing a tradition of independence
in rural culture.
between rich and poor, a growing immigrant population and increasing
challenges posed by illegal drugs in rural communities are just
some of the issues that are changing the pastoral view of rural
America, held by both its residents and outsiders. In addition,
the increasing loss of manufacturing jobs in rural communities,
along with the declining role of agriculture, are forcing government
and economic development leaders to seek new ways to produce jobs.
What a community
can produce and a market to whom the product can be sold are the
two primary questions that should be answered in an economic development
strategy in rural communities.
areas attractive to industry with updated, quality infrastructure
is also a key to improving an area's economic health, said Dr. Clifton
Dixon, chair of the Southern Miss Department of Geography.
and infrastructure are critical to the economic success of rural
areas," Dixon said. "If your county or rural region is
not being professionally maintained or developed with updated transportation
systems and infrastructure, then you are at a disadvantage. Companies
won't consider you as an ideal location (for business)."
To make an
economic development strategy work, partnerships are necessary,
and maximizing the resources of local governments through such partnerships
can help produce positive results, Freshwater said.
end of the day, community development and economic development are
two sides of the same coin," Freshwater said. "You have
to look forward. You have to look to the future."