A new program to help rural places use smart growth strategies


by The Hon. John Robert Smith

Many rural communities have seen farmland eroded by encroaching development, or are losing young residents to places with more amenities and greater opportunities. Whether drained by sprawl or struggling to compete, how can rural communities address these challenges while remaining true to their unique character?

Smart Growth America’s new Rural Development program, launching today, is designed to help local leaders strengthen rural economies through a smart growth approach to development. The new program will give rural residents and leaders better information about the financial and economic impacts of development choices.

We have already worked with many rural communities over the past decade. Our new, focused Rural Development program will bring these efforts together under one umbrella, allowing us to do several more exciting things in the coming years:

  • A new network of rural local leaders who are gathering together for the first time today as part of the Local Leaders Council’s Policy Forum 2016 in Washington, DC. Today’s event will be the start of an ongoing collaboration between elected leaders from rural communities across the country. Learn more about the network >>
  • New technical assistance to at least nine rural communities total in 2016, focused on providing leaders with information and data on the fiscal impacts of development patterns. Learn more about our rural technical assistance >>
  • New policy toolkits and a new report designed to help small towns and counties address their unique growth needs. Look for these resources later in 2016.
  • A cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide technical assistance workshops in at least seven rural communities in 2016.

Smart growth strategies can help small towns build durable local economies, reduce public costs, and preserve the features that make them unique. And reinvesting in existing places can actually be even more impactful in smaller communities than in big cities. Small communities have fewer financial resources to work with, so even modest efforts to reduce costs—or generate more revenue—by growing in different ways can make a big difference.

If you live or work in a rural place and want to find out how a smart growth approach could help your community, visit our new program page to learn more.

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