Small Town and Rural Economic Development: A Case Studies Approach

By Peter V. Schaeffer; Scott Loveridge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Introduction: Maintaining and Enhancing the Community Economic Base

Scott Loveridge

When economists speak of an area's economic base, they generally mean those industries that sell to customers outside the region. In this section, we focus on efforts to maintain and expand the economic base. We broaden the standard definition of economic base to include those industries that sell to nonlocal customers, but inside the region (as in tourism) and industries in which businesses compete with companies outside the region for local dollars (as in retail).

With the increasing globalization of the economy, it is no longer safe to assume that an industry that is viable today will continue to be healthy next year or even tomorrow. A political decision made in a distant continent can change world commodity prices, wreaking havoc on local natural resource-based economic systems. Similarly, an investment decision made in a distant boardroom can make local manufacturing facilities obsolete. A new highway can bring new competitors into a local retail market, putting locally owned enterprises at risk. While each of the changes described above may promote better world prosperity, these kinds of developments also have negative--even potentially disastrous--effects on the local economy.

In urban areas, the negative consequences of changing economic and environmental circumstances may be more easily overcome than is the case in rural areas. Rural areas have fewer employment opportunities. A worker specialized in one type of activity may find it difficult to be reemployed in a job using that skill if his or her job comes to an end. Workers in rural areas may also have less access to retraining opportunities than do workers in urban areas. Workers need jobs, so much of economic development revolves around job creation strategies.

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