Rural Development is a broad topic, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you first start. Before jumping into the deep end of this subject area, many things need to be considered, but Damon Becknel, an experienced entrepreneur and land developer, believes that it can be made much easier by knowing what these things are. Let’s look at some important points to help ease your transition to working with rural development programs.
Rural Development Programs
The U.S Department of Agriculture has many different programs specifically designed for Rural Development, which will likely be your main point of contact when learning about rural development in the U.S. They have three specific programs: Community Facilities, Business and Industry Loans/Grants, and Economic Development Grants/Loans. The easiest to access is the Community Facilities programs. These consist of things like water/sewer, wastewater treatment, solid waste disposal facilities, broadband deployment, transportation and airports, community centers/museums/libraries, parks and recreation facilities, housing & shelter projects (including multi-family), emergency services (fire stations, etc.), public safety projects (police stations, etc.)
What Is Rural Development?
Rural Development is the act of improving the quality of life in rural (typically defined as non-metropolitan) communities through investment or targeted programs. The goal is to create sustainable economic growth and job opportunities, which can help stop or reverse population loss. It’s also used to increase collaboration between stakeholders, resulting in mutually beneficial outcomes for all involved parties.
Rural communities often face unique challenges compared to their metropolitan counterparts. Because of this, it can be difficult to get people on board with changes. Many different factors have contributed to the current circumstances in some rural areas, so fixing problems is not always easy. Most of these issues are related directly to infrastructure deficiencies, lack of business development, jobs shortages, etc.
What Challenges to Rural Communities Face
The main challenges that rural communities face are:
Lack of Access to Quality Healthcare and Health Services
This includes a lack of doctors, dentists, optometrists, etc. This leads directly to higher mortality rates in these areas. There is also a higher risk for congenital abnormalities due to underdeveloped prenatal care programs.
The Need for Better Education & Training Opportunities
Many rural areas have very high dropout rates from high school. They have not developed effective professional development programs to help people get into skilled labor jobs or office support roles that would be more practical for the local population.
Rural Areas Tend to Have Fewer Economic Opportunities
In many cases, there’s only one business in an area, making it difficult to get a job or generate any income without moving out of the area, which is difficult for older residents who might not be able to drive. There are also fewer large businesses in rural communities, so it’s harder to take advantage of economies of scale.
Rural Areas Tend To Be More Isolated
This leads to transportation difficulties that can inhibit collaboration between different stakeholders and decrease people’s access to services.
Rural development programs can be very beneficial for stakeholders involved, but you must make sure that you understand the issues before attempting to tackle them. What might seem like a relatively straightforward way to improve quality of life in an area with only one business could end up hurting the economy if not done correctly due to lack of jobs and low purchasing power.
Be prepared to do a lot of research into these communities and their needs before offering any solutions. The federal government has neglected many rural areas for decades leading to increased population decline, so they need help more now than ever before. In most cases, people are so used to being ignored that they don’t realize how badly they’ve been mistreated until someone is willing to take a chance on them.