The 2010 Rural Community Conference that took place Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at MSU-Bozeman was a great success. With over 150 attendees, 27 exhibitors, and 32 speakers, the two-day conference provided an excellent opportunity to network and learn more about a host of topics from community food systems to affordable housing to workforce development to leadership skills for community capacity building. Our awards ceremony highlighted the successes of our 15 current Horizons communities; a new publication describes their accomplishments. We were also the lead story on the local NBC evening news local NBC evening news. Look to the conference website in the coming weeks for streaming video of the breakout sessions and keynote speakers. We would again like to thank our financial sponsors, and all of the individuals and organizations that assisted in conference planning. Stay tuned for more information about the 2011 Rural Community Conference to be coordinated by our conference financial partner Rural Dynamics Inc.
Educational Attainment Worldwide on the Rise
Worldwatch Institute reports that people all over the world are completing more years of schooling than ever. More than 61 percent of individuals 15 or older—just over 3 billion people—finished at least some secondary school during their lifetimes as of 2010. This proportion has risen from 36 percent in 1970 and from 50 percent in 1990. Having advanced to secondary school or beyond not only indicates that individuals are better prepared for the future; it also highlights educational success, since students are unlikely to advance to higher educational levels without having completed prior schooling. In 2010, according to the data, only about 1 in 10 adult males and 1 in 5 adult females had no schooling whatsoever.
Natural Gas Use Falls But Renaissance is in the Pipeline
Worldwatch Institute reports that widespread economic contraction in 2009 caused the largest recorded annual decline in global natural gas consumption: a 2.1 percent drop to 103.8 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Gas consumption fell even more than coal and oil use did, reflecting the fact that energy consumption in North America and Europe, the largest gas consumers, fell sharply in response to the recession, while the world’s fastest-growing energy market, China, used relatively little natural gas. Overall, natural gas was responsible for 23.8 percent of global primary energy consumption in 2009, a slight decrease from 2008. Yet the decline in gas use in 2009 will likely turn out to be a one-year anomaly, as proven global reserves of natural gas rose 1.2 percent to an estimated 6,618 tcf.
USDA Reports Growth in Farmer's Markets
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the 2010 National Farmer's Market Directory lists 6,132 operational farmers markets, representing 16 percent growth over 2009 when the agency reported 5,274. The 2010 National Farmers Market Directory results are being released as part of National Farmers Market Week declared by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack between Aug. 1-7, 2010. Top states with the most farmers markets are California (580), New York (461), Illinois (286), and Michigan (271); and top states, by percentage, with market growth from 2009-2010: Missouri (77), Minnesota (61), Idaho (60), and Michigan (60).
Rural Job Market Improves
The Daily Yonder reports that the rural unemployment rate in June of this year dropped below the rate in June of 2009 -- the first time this year that the rural unemployment rate was lower than in the corresponding month a year ago. The June 2010 rate in the nation’s 2,038 rural counties was 9.5%. A year ago, the monthly unemployment rate was 9.9%.
The map above shows the patchiness of the employment picture in rural counties. Counties colored blue have more jobs this June than in June 2009. Dark blue counties all have at least 500 more jobs this year than last, while tan counties lost jobs. As you can see, there are far more tan counties than ones colored blue. Of the 2,038 rural counties in the U.S., only 772 — 38% —have more jobs this June than in June of 2009. In total, there are 367,000 fewer jobs in rural America this June than in June of last year. There are fewer jobs, but there are also fewer rural residents looking for jobs — 147,000 fewer this June than in 2009. As a result, the unemployment rate is going down.
Rural unemployment was higher for most of 2010 than in the corresponding months of 2009. (See chart above.) In June, however, the lines crossed; and the unemployment rate in 2010 was lower than the rate in 2009.
The Rural Grocery Crisis
Rural America's grocery stores are facing a crisis. These businesses are closing at an alarming rate. Almost daily another small-town, independently-owned store shuts its doors and closes up shop. A majority of the land area in several states of the Midwest and Mountain West could be described as food desert. Severe food desert counties, areas where citizens have to drive more than 10 miles to a grocery store, are still apparent in the western portions of the Great Plains states. Approximately 40% of Kansas counties are severe food desert counties, and a significant portion of the population in half of Oklahoma's 77 counties live in severe food deserts. The following map displays the food deserts throughout the U.S. and illustrates the severity of this problem in the central plains.
The Clean Energy Economy in the Rockies
The Clean Energy report by Headwaters Economics compares how Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming--five states with vast traditional and clean energy resources--are taking advantage of clean energy and energy efficiency opportunities to create green jobs. These energy-related activities are now among the strongest segments of the green economy and show promise during these turbulent economic times. This study identifies many of the opportunities and challenges facing the five states as well as the implications for each state's economic prosperity.
Local Experts Share Insights on How to Get Grants
September 8, 3:00-4:30pm, Granite Tower, Billings. The community development specialists at Big Sky Economic Development will present a free introductory workshop about the grant-seeking process on Wednesday, September 8, from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. in the Big Sky Economic Development conference center located on the first floor of Granite Tower, 222 North 32nd Street in downtown Billings. Contact for additional information.
Montana Downtown Forum
September 15-17, Holiday Inn-Downtown, Missoula. The Montana Downtown Forum, the most comprehensive downtown development and historic preservation conference in the state, is Sept. 15-17 in Missoula at the Holiday Inn -Downtown at the Park. For more information about the educational sessions and to register online, please visit the event website. The cost is $175, which includes some meals.
Grant Training Opportunities Coming to Montana
September 16-17, Missoula; September 20-21, Billings; November 15-16, Billings.
A presentation entitled "Where to Find the Grants and How to Get Them" will be held in Missoula, September 16-17, 2010 and in Billings, September 20-21, 2010. A second event, "Stay in Compliance and Keep the Money" will be presented in Billings on November 15-16, 2010. Contact for more information.
The 2010 Burton K. Wheeler Fall Conference
September 20-21, Best Western Great Northern Hotel, Helena. The Wheeler Fall Conference, “Rethinking Education for the 21st Century,” will bring together an outstanding group of educators, students and top policy people to Helena for a statewide public discussion. Registration is open, see the agenda and register now.
The Heartland Center for Leadership Development Announces its Annual Institute, Helping Small Towns Succeed
September 27-29, South Haven, Michigan. Helping Small Towns Succeed is the longest running program of the Heartland Center for Leadership Development and covers the range of the Center's focus and expertise with small communities. See website for more information.
Understanding Communities: Online course offers tools for community development
We invite you to register for Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics, a unique online course presented jointly by the four Regional Rural Development Centers and a team of nationally recognized Community Development professionals. The eight-week series begins October 1, 2010; Each of the next seven weeks features a 90-minute webinar focusing on topics including demographics, economic development, strategic planning, and power structures. Supplemental resources and online discussion opportunities will be available on the course website. Participants can log in at their convenience during the week to explore these topics further, pose questions, investigate additional resources and visit with colleagues in similar situations. Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics is a Level 1 introduction for the Foundations of Practice Program. It is appropriate for individuals working with community groups at any level and in any subject area. Registration is $150 per person. Discounts are available for those sharing a computer and phone line. Registration forms and payment information is available here. To learn more about Foundations of Practice and Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics please visit their website.
Community Capitals Institute Call for Participation
October 15th, Ames, Iowa.
Are you currently using the Community Capitals Framework in your work? If so, we would like to learn about your approach and methods. If you are interested in participating in the program, please send an abstract of your work (500 words) along with key words to by September 15. Registration materials and accommodations information will be available in the next couple of weeks.
National Urban Extension Conference
Des Moines, Iowa May 2-5, 2011. The 2011 urban conference planning committee made up of Extension professionals from 14 states and understands the unique challenges that face land grant institutions in their urban educational outreach efforts. Join us in May of 2011 as we discuss the unique needs of urban communities around the nation. Conference highlights include, nationally recognized keynote speakers, urban success stories and sessions featuring leading Extension professionals, urban cultural immersions, and networking.
WaysToHelp.org invites teens in the United States to apply for grants to fund their community service ideas across any one of 16 issue areas. You can apply for a grant, by visiting the website and for any issue area, selecting "See Ways To Help" followed by "Apply for a Grant". Applications are short - just 5,000 words or less - and should summarize: how the project will involve others, who it will help, what effect it's expected to have, when it will start and how the funds will be used. Grant requests are reviewed and responded to on a monthly basis.
Introduction to Community Development: Theory, Practice, and Service-Learning
This collection of work by leading community development scholars presents students with a theoretical and practical introduction to the field. The text progresses seamlessly from a theoretical overview to a historical overview of three approaches to community development (ecological, interactional, and social conflict), then explores the practice of community development along with technical assistance, action research, evaluation research, and the role of local organizations, local leadership, and coalitions. The book concludes with critical issues, such as rural development, inner-city development, youth engagement in community development, health care, public schools, sustainable development, and the effects of globalization on community and economic development in the U.S. and other countries.
Free Online Access to Community Development for 2 Months
Community Development is a peer-reviewed quarterly journal featuring articles on such diverse topics as rural and urban economic development, housing, entrepreneurship, theory, technology, social capital, leadership, and much more! Articles are written by and for academics and practitioners. Click on the ‘Got a Voucher?’ link and enter this code: VRCOD100001F77D
Census Bureau Releases Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE) for Counties and States
The Census Bureau's Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE) program produces estimates of health insurance coverage for states and all counties. In July 2005, SAHIE released the first nation-wide set of county-level estimates on the number of people without health insurance coverage for all ages and those under 18 years old. In July 2010, SAHIE released 2007 estimates of health insurance coverage by age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, and income categories at the state-level and by age, sex, and income categories at the county-level.
Census Bureau Releases County Business Patterns
In July, 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau released County Business Patterns which covers most of the country's economic activity. The data are the standard reference source for small area (county) economic data. They are used to benchmark public and private sector business statistical series, surveys and databases between economic census years. Federal agencies also use the data to determine employee concentrations and trends by industry. The series excludes data on self-employed individuals, employees of private households, railroad employees, agricultural production employees, and most government employees.
The 2010 Montana Public Lands Guide Released
This updated publication from Montana State University Extension provides an overview of public lands in Montana with descriptions of various state and federal revenue compensation programs including Montana's Entitlement Share Program, State Trust Land Program, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs, as well as details on numerous Federal public land laws such as the Taylor Grazing Act and Mineral Leasing Act. Included are 13 tables (with county-by-county revenue figures) and 5 maps (including a color map showing all state and federal lands). The document can be ordered from MSU Extension.
Community Development “In the News”
Federal Program Finances Innovative Energy Projects
The new Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, whose budget is $400 million for two years, was created to realize profound results — such as tens of millions of motor vehicles that would run 300 miles a day on electricity from clean sources or on liquid fuels from trees and garbage. New York Times; Aug. 18.
School Cafeterias Improve Nutrition
According to a new survey completed by nutrition directors in 538 districts around the country, more schools are including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables while reducing sodium and sugar. Christian Science Monitor; Aug. 18.
Transport Sector in the Slow Lane for Managing Carbon
The transport sector generates 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but a new study suggests the industry is in the slow lane when it comes to disclosing their carbon footprints and setting plans to shrink them. Greenbiz.com; Aug. 13.
Doctors Prescribe Farmers' Market Produce
Doctors at three health centers in Massachusetts have begun advising patients to eat “prescription produce” from local farmers’ markets, in an effort to fight obesity in children of low-income families. Now they will give coupons amounting to $1 a day for each member of a patient’s family to promote healthy meals. New York Times; Aug. 12.
The Next Best Thing to Oil
A renewable carbon economy may become a reality now that solar power facilities are cropping up in deserts across California, Spain and North Africa. The idea is to use the sun to power chemical plants able to split carbon dioxide. Combine the resulting carbon monoxide with hydrogen and you have the beginnings of a solar fuel that could one day replace oil. New Scientist; Aug. 12.
Farmers and Ranchers Press for Marketplace Competition
Each month more than 1,000 ranches are going out of business. That rate of failure has been steady for the past 30 years. The question for this morning is why. Colorado beef producer Mike Callicrate has one answer: Wal-Mart. "There is no greater threat to our economic and social well-being than that company," Callicrate said. Daily Yonder; Aug. 11.
Report: Housing Developments Threaten Forests
Housing development on privately owned forest land needs to be added to the list of threats to the nation's forests, according to a U.S. Forest Service report issued today. The report said 56 percent of the nation's forests are privately owned, amounting to 420 million acres. Of that number, 57 million acres face a serious threat from housing development in the next 20 years. Associated Press; Aug. 11.
Study Links Health Benefits to Public Transportation
A new report, released by the American Public Transportation Association, which surveys current research has found that people who live in communities with high-quality public transportation drive less, exercise more, live longer, and are generally healthier than residents of communities that lack quality public transit. Transit News; Aug. 11.
Western Governors Call for Federal Biomass Fuel Policy
Western governors said today that the absence of a cohesive federal policy on the use of biomass for energy production could negatively impact efforts to improve forest health and to increase local and state investments in renewable energy projects, and they called on the Administration to make it a top priority. Westgov.org; Aug. 10.
Obscure Grain Increases in Popularity
Teff is an indigenous grain grown on the dry plateaus of Ethiopia, deep in America’s breadbasket, and in the valleys of Australia’s Murray-Darling basin. Today, teff is in vogue around the world, particularly among “foodies” and people with gluten allergies, making it more popular than ever. With its high nutrient content and adaptability to different growing conditions, there is good reason for farmers everywhere to grow this multi-use grain crop. Worldwatch Institute; Aug. 9.
Rural America Tries to Balance Rurality and Economic Development
A challenge so many rural American communities feel today: How to keep a rural quality of life, preserve our landscapes, sustain our small towns and cities, even while positioning ourselves for better jobs and family futures? Citiwire.net; Aug. 6.
Walkable Communities May Help Business
Lawrence and Lincoln, two intersecting streets, constitute the perfect controlled experiment on the popularity of walkable urbanism. If people basically liked shopping on car-oriented speedways, Lawrence would have fewer vacant storefronts than Lincoln. Yet the opposite is true. It follows that where everything else is equal, shoppers prefer walkable urbanism to car-oriented suburbanism. Planetizen; July 29.
Urban Agriculture Contest Announces Winners
Terreform ONE announced the winners of an ideas competition focused on creating productive green spaces in cities. New strategies for urban food production that can leverage existing infrastructure and work well within local conditions included concepts that offered vertical farms, neighborhood farms, farms on vacant lots, front lawns, strip malls, roof tops, river barges, and reused abandoned infrastructure. The Dirt; July 29.
Microlending Aids Small Businesses in Spite of Credit Crunch
Before the economic collapse, microfinance — the granting of very small loans, mostly to poor people — was a concept most closely associated with the developing world. But tight credit and the recession have increased the demand for smaller loans in the United States, giving microlending a higher profile and broadening its appeal. New York Times; July 28.
Solar Power Gains Cost Advantage Over Nuclear
Solar photovoltaic systems have long been painted as a clean way to generate electricity, but expensive compared with other alternatives to oil, like nuclear power. No longer. In a “historic crossover,” the costs of solar photovoltaic systems have declined to the point where they are lower than the rising projected costs of new nuclear plants, according to a paper published this month. New York Times; July 27.
Alternative Bank Stabilization Project Takes Root
3,000 buried willows, and their above-ground counterparts, are part of a plant-based bioengineering demonstration project at Lake Helena, which replaces traditional bank stabilization efforts — basically, large rocks or in some cases, old cars — with organic material. Helena Independent Record; Aug. 25.
Bozeman cost of living declines, falling home prices a major factor
For the first time in three years, the cost of living in Bozeman has gone down, according to a local nonprofit economic development organization. From 2007 until now, Bozeman's cost of the living has wavered between 3 and 9 percent above national averages. Bozeman Daily Chronicle; Aug. 25.
Warren Buffet to Speak at Montana Economic Development Summit
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus says investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett is scheduled to participate in the Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte next month. Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is scheduled to speak to the gathering live via video. Helena Independent Record; Aug. 25.
Turbine Built to Train Power Workers
Within weeks a 60-foot tower that could support an electricity-generating wind turbine will be built in the Helena Valley and will be used by electricians and other tradesmen for training in how to install and maintain the towering structures that make up the growing number of wind farms across the country. The project is being funded by a $5 million stimulus grant to be used for new energy job training across the state. Montana Standard; Aug. 23.
Missoula Makes List of 22 Cities in Danger of a Double-Dip Recession
A new report from Moody's Economy.com singled out 22 cities that are at risk of slipping back into a recession in as early as three months. To come to this conclusion, the economists considered dwindling progress in employment, housing starts, home prices and industrial production. CNNmoney.com; Aug. 21.
Montana Ranks Third in Stimulus Funding
Montana has taken in more federal economic stimulus dollars than all but two other states, according to data compiled by the investigative website Pro Publica. Montana raked in $1,744 of recovery dollars for every citizen. That's 33 percent higher than the national average of $1,170 per capita. Great Falls Tribune; Aug. 19.
Competitors question wisdom of giving $64 million in stimulus money to Montana Opticom to expand rural broadband
Two weeks ago, the federal government announced that Gallatin Gateway-based Montana Opticom would receive $64 million in stimulus money to bring world-class broadband access to rural parts of Gallatin County. Bozeman Daily Chronicle; Aug. 15.
Outside Magazines Names Bozeman Best Ski Town in West; Praises Preservation Efforts
Outside Magazine has named Bozeman (along with Salt Lake City) the best-ski-town-in-the-West commendation. A blurb on the magazine's website saluted area residents for voting to "raise their own taxes so the county could afford to purchase (and then preserve) ranches that might otherwise have been sliced and diced by developers," referring to Gallatin County's voter-approved open-space bond issues. Bozeman Daily Chronicle; Aug. 14.
Economist Predict Slow, Steady Recovery for Montana Economy
Montana is expected to experience a slight uptick to the economy from nonresident tourists and a steadying agricultural economy. Moving forward, the state won't likely see any rebound in the hard-hit construction industry. Missoulian; Aug. 12.
Montana, Wyoming Universities Receive Carbon-Research Funding
The U.S. Department of Energy issued $3 million in research grants to Montana and Wyoming universities Wednesday for studying ways of storing carbon pollution from power plants. Montana State University received $1.6 million for researching ways to seal injection wells using a liquid-like mixture of carbon dioxide. Billings Gazette; Aug. 11.
Montana Ski Resort to Reopen, Bolster Local Economy
Teton Pass Ski Resort, west of Choteau, is reopening after a year of hibernation and $3 million in plumbing, electrical and terrain improvements are planned for the ski hill over the next two years. Choteau Chamber of Commerce President Gabrielle Rasmussen says Teton Pass makes an important economic difference and helps keep area skiers and snowboarders from taking their money elsewhere. Great Falls Tribune; Aug. 10.
Tribal Community Gardens Start Producing
Eight gardens across the Flathead Indian Reservation grow produce that will be distributed to people who are eligible to receive commodities through the Food Distribution Program and people served by other low-income programs such as WIC program (Women, Infants and Children). Produce will also be provided to the tribal senior citizen centers for meals in the four communities as well as individual senior citizens. Char-Koosta News; Aug. 5.
Global Market for Flathead Cherries
Consumers in Europe and Asia will pay top dollar for cherries, but in return demand only the biggest and sweetest of the fruit. Missoulian; Aug. 4.