Erwin, TN: Evolving from railroads to fiber optic cables

Many rural communities in America have been struggling as the economy has changed dramatically over the last few decades, but some of these communities are evolving and finding new ways to adapt. This is a story of how one small mountain town in northeast Tennessee has found new economic opportunity by investing in reliable, high-speed broadband internet to catalyze new growth and development focused in their walkable, historic downtown.

Economic development Rural Development Technical assistance Uncategorized

Implementing Complete Streets in small towns and rural communities

(Image courtesy of Alta Planning + Design)

Successful implementation of Complete Streets requires much more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Rural and small towns often face distinct challenges from urban areas when it comes to improving the conditions for people walking and bicycling. The National Complete Streets Coalition recently spoke with Andrea Clinkscales, Senior Planner at Alta, to learn about some of the obstacles smaller communities may face, along with potential solutions to implementing Complete Streets.

Complete Streets Rural Development

New Resource: USDA Releases Guide to Federal Programs for Rural Communities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities; a guide to programs available to help rural areas promote economic development and enhance quality of life.

The publication, a joint effort of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities,

Compiles all of the federal resources that can support rural communities in their efforts to promote economic competitiveness, protect healthy environments, modernize infrastructure, and provide services to residents. The guide has key information on funding and technical assistance opportunities available from the four agencies, as well as examples of how rural communities across the country have benefitted from federal resources.


Funding Opportunity: Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge

Four federal agencies are offering $15 million in funding to spur economic growth in rural areas. The approximately 20 regions to receive funding will also be eligible for technical assistance resources from an additional nine agencies. From the U.S. Department of Agriculture announcement:

Funds awarded to the winning applicants can be used to support and accelerate a range of projects including improving rural communities’ capacity and ability to undertake projects related to housing, community facilities, or economic and community development along with creation of regional linkages that connect communities with innovation clusters and regional opportunities leading to job creation, expanded markets, and economic growth.


Report: Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities

Rural communities and small towns across the U.S. are interested in making smarter investments for their economic recovery. Communities have unequivocally shown that smart practices in housing, infrastructure and transportation will save local, state and federal government significant sums. Small businesses and family farms benefit from strategic local investments too, because smarter short-term decisions mean a stronger regional economy for the future.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities – a collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Transportation – works to help communities achieve these goals. The Partnership along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a new report on how the agencies are collaborating to support rural communities.

“Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities” (PDF) highlights how rural communities and small towns are using resources from these federal agencies to strengthen their economies, provide better quality of life to residents, and build on local assets such as traditional main streets, agricultural lands, and natural resources.


How-to workshops help small towns implement smart growth strategies

A new series of free workshops on smart growth development are catching the attention of policy makers and community leaders across the country.

The set of 12 workshops, run by Smart Growth America and several partner organizations, are designed to show local leaders how smart growth strategies can support a local economy and protect the environment while preserving the character of a town and making it more attractive to visitors or new residents.

The one or two-day workshops address a number of smart growth topics, including how to create pedestrian-friendly streets, the benefits of regional planning, innovative parking policies, and zoning changes that benefit small cities. “Transportation Performance Measurement,” for instance, empowers citizens and elected leaders to look at the roads, transit systems, walkways and bike lanes in their area as tools for achieving their objectives for economic vitality, public health, environmental protection and neighborhood character – in addition to the classic transportation objectives of access, circulation and travel.


Smart growth news – August 2

State land bank law will help Newburgh, officials say
Times Herald-Record (N.Y.), August 1, 2011
Officials in the City of Newburgh were already creating a land bank for residential properties, but the new law will allow them to bank commercial foreclosures, too. “We’re thrilled,” city fire Chief Michael Vatter said of the state law. “This gives us a lot of options to do stuff on Broadway or work with other commercial properties.”

Rural Schools Vs. Smart Growth In King County
KUPOW (Wash.), August 1, 2011
King County may close a loophole in its growth management planning for rural school construction. Smart growth advocates support the change to limit sprawl, but some rural districts are opposed because it could cost them more in construction costs. We’ll hear two perspectives.

Army aviation’s $400M home
El Paso Inc. (Texas), August 1, 2011
[Under second subheadline “Army ‘smart growth’”] In its effort to push smart growth principals the City of El Paso has an unlikely companion. A 15-year veteran of the Army, Wilson says she has never seen the Army build the way it is at Fort Bliss, putting so much care into the design and arrangement of its buildings.

Carless in Calhoun County: A reporter’s attempt to use public transportation and his bicycle to get to work
The Anniston Star (Ala.), July 31, 2011
Hitting the snooze button. Drinking six cups of coffee. Wolfing down a snack bar while running out the door. Riding halfway across the county on a bicycle to catch a bus that makes one stop every 55 minutes. What, that last one isn’t part of your daily commute to work?