Journal article

The pitfalls of economic development in the United States

Regional planning Economic development United States of America
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Rural America has experienced economic decIine since the Mid-1980s. High unemployment, weak agricultural, manufacturing and extractive sectors have stimulated regional and local economic development strategies. New rural development organisations were established or revived from dormancy. During this same time frame the Federal Government retreated from addressing rural economic development problems and consequently many states followed suit.

In the rush to establish development priorities, goals and programs many rural organisations have assumed that the strategies of the past could be successfully implemented in the 1990s. For example, attracting branch plants, marketing cheap labour or promoting tourism.

However, in the 1990s a new economic order requires qualitatively and quantify different goals, and strategies. In the rush to emulate past successes many rural development organisations have fallen into the "pitfalls' of economic development. Many rural development organisations in the states have, too often, established and implemented programs without stepping back and allocating enough time to envision a different economic future than the past. Again, too often, strategies revolve around a particular state or federal program, intuition or a particular political interest group. Consequently, opportunities are missed to set a new course and direction.

In light of the above the purpose of this paper is two fold. First to provide a brief review of the forces of change in the New Economy that rural development organisations need to understand and adapt their strategies accordingly. Second, to summarise a number of economic development "pitfalls," that many rural American development organisations have fallen victim to and blocked successful economic development efforts.

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