Small Town and Rural Economic Development: A Case Studies Approach

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

has developed a strong collaborative working relationship with the county economic development authority on issues of mutual interest.


CONCLUSION

The CDT is truly outcome-oriented, and it is difficult to track success. We found that there are stages of success which are both tangible and more process- oriented. There are tangible successes in the form of the various planning meetings organized by the local application committee leading up to the team visit. By the same measure, there is the success of the team visit itself. What determines the success is if an interactive experience has been facilitated that would not otherwise have been provided, and which allows for ideas to be shared, issues raised, and relationships to be formed and strengthened among community members. It is difficult to account for successes at this stage, but we can argue that there is a certain "enlightenment effect" involved in this process. Subsequent stages of success can be identified in the downstream effects of a community design team visit. For example, in the Bigwater visit, the Community Design Team recommendations regarding downtown revitalization helped to energize efforts to apply for and secure grant funds. In the Forest Grove visit, the Community Design Team suggested that a community development corporation or some other community organization be created to take up the perceived slack the region was receiving from government authorities in the county. In the six months following the visit, a community development corporation was formed and a number of small-scale and visible projects were undertaken aimed at addressing the community's infrastructure and recreational needs.

The importance of institutional commitment became clear in both the planning and outcome stages of the CDT initiatives in Bigwater and Forest Grove. Institutional commitment can be defined as the interested participation of established governmental and nongovernmental organizations in the community design process. These institutions have the resources, mission, and legitimacy to champion a project and can help in efforts to follow through on project objectives.

One of the purposes of the application process is to establish the level of institutional commitment to the project. One of the goals of the design process is to enhance institutional arrangements through their greater involvement in communities and with citizens.

In the Bigwater initiative, it appeared that institutional commitment to CDT process was substantial. The application received the endorsement of many actors in the community. During the team visit, numerous business and local government leaders made presentations. It was not anticipated, however, that institutional support was somewhat superficial. After the visit, most of the responsibility for project follow-through seemed to fall into the hands of one person-the mayor. Thus, institutional commitment became personified and when the mayor resigned, the outcomes became uncertain.

-18-

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