Community Economic Development:
Smaller and more rural communities have traditionally depended upon manufacturing and natural resource extraction industries such as agriculture, forestry, and mining as sources of employment and income. But today, rural America is vastly more diverse, with increased dependency on non-extractive uses of natural resources, including numerous forms of tourism. Our traditional views of small town and rural America have fundamentally changed. Faculty and students have been exploring alternative forms of economic development in small and rural communities. For example, how do natural and built amenities impact economic development strategies? Are people willing to accept lower wages to live in areas with a high level of amenities? How can communities best organize themselves for economic growth and development? What is the difference between growth and development? A major focus is to identify policies at the local level to help residents more effectively promote change that is consistent with local desires.
The Political Economy of Land Use:
The face of rural America is changing. In many large and small metropolitan areas, rapid growth of suburban areas is creating new challenges for local residents. In some instances, some of the nation's richest farm land has been transformed into extensive housing developments and suburban malls. Conflicts arise as amenity-rich rural areas attract new residents and employment opportunities, displacing traditional land uses such as agriculture, forestry and mining. How have land-based resource use changes affected local economies? How are residents and businesses affected and how do communities manage conflicts stemming from these transitions?
State and Local Government Fiscal Policies:
Many state and local governments are experiencing significant fiscal stress. The demand for services continues to grow while the willingness to raise taxes to pay for these services remains low. Increasingly, states are restricting how local governments can raise revenues while at the same time reducing aids and mandating new services. How are these policies affecting municipal economic growth and development? How are local governments responding to ever higher levels of fiscal stress? How can small and rural local governments make efficiency gains? The department is actively involved in teaching, research and outreach education in the area of state and local public finance.
Rural areas historically have lagged behind urban areas with respect to sustainable income growth. This economic phenomenon, although well documented, is not completely understood or reflected in rural economic development policies. Today, growing income inequality in both urban and rural areas is a new, and perhaps more fundamental, challenge facing local development policy makers. Do higher levels of income inequality and poverty lead to higher rates of crime, which in turn can hinder future growth and development? Does the transition from extractive to non-extractive use of natural resources -- such as tourism promotion -- lead to higher levels of inequality and poverty? Can local policies affect these patterns, or are these national trends that are beyond the influence of local communities?