The intangible economy in rural areas

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Here is a great article on The Worth of the Rural 'Creative Economy'. The article talks about how the Mississippi Arts Commission is building a creative economy in rural areas. Years ago I did a piece on "Building on Local Information Assets" for Rural Matters on a similar theme. Back then I noted that:

It is often thought that rural areas are at a distinct disadvantage in this race to develop intangible assets. For example, it is difficult for rural areas to put together the scientific and research assets needed for technology-led economic development. Likewise, following the notion of Richard Florida's The Creative Class, more and more urban areas have latched on to the notion that "cool" is a defining intangible asset on which to build their economic base. These assets are commonly seen as an active nightlife, arts and entertainment centers that will attract young creative people. Rural areas generally don't have the agglomeration of such features.

But recent studies show that rural areas and smaller communities may be better suited to commercialization of new products (a specialized form of "innovation") rather than scientific and technical innovation. And small-town and rural life styles have their own appeal as "cool." What sells is a unique or distinct approach - that important intangible asset of "brand" that more and more communities are beginning to recognize.

There are numerous examples of rural communities or regions that have utilized local knowledge to spark development. The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) in Athena, Ohio has created a local economic cluster centered on the specialty food products industry. Other examples include film making around Wilmington, NC; windsurfing-related sporting goods and apparel in Hood River, Oregon; fishing gear in Woodland, Washington; snowmobile manufacturing in northern Minnesota; and houseboat manufacturing in Kentucky. These areas, and many others, show that it can be economically "cool" to be rural.

I think that is still true today.

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    Note: the views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Athena Alliance.

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