Bringing the Economy Home

The Slow Road to Rural Job Growth

Curtis Gregory Perry

A pre-recession construction project south of Twin Falls

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week announced a new round of grants and loans from the agency’s rural development program.  The funds are meant to spur rural job creation and business development.  In Idaho, the one grantee is the Idaho Falls office of the Yellowstone Business Partnership.

Executive Director Jan Brown says they have big plans for their $49,500 allocation.  They’ll hire two consultants to work with small businesses in rural counties of eastern Idaho.  The aim is to help those businesses shift to more sustainable and, Brown says, money-saving practices.  That would be things like more efficient waste management, energy conservation and water conservation.  That, she says, could free up money for hiring.

This is the slow road to create jobs in rural Idaho and beyond. The New York Times detailed criticism of this route to economic growth earlier this week.  The basic complaint?  For all of its funding and effort in rural areas, why doesn’t the Obama Administration have more to show?  But on the flip-side, where would rural communities be without this spending?

Economists like Lionel Beaulieu, the director of the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University, said financing for rural programs might have prevented even deeper levels of poverty and unemployment.

“The truth is,” Mr. Beaulieu said, “we don’t know how much worse it would have been if not for this funding.” — The New York Times


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