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All Case Studies


Arkansas

Helena-West Helena
Updated: 2022

Severe economic decline leads civic leaders from two small communities in the Mississippi Delta to set aside historic rivalries and work together to save their towns. This story is about an inclusive community-wide planning and implementation process to bridge economic development, housing, education, leadership development and health care.

Morrilton
Updated: 2022

In Morrilton, two of the town’s largest employers close their doors in the same week. A coalition of community leaders responds quickly to form partnerships and implement job training programs for the dislocated workers.

California

Rio Dell
Updated: 2022

This is a story about small steps making a big difference. Once a run-down community with an inferiority complex, Rio Dell took simple steps to clean up the town and re-invigorate civic pride.

Georgia

Colquitt
Updated: 2022

Colquitt uses the arts as a tool for community empowerment and economic diversification. The success of a community-based performing arts project has resulted in extensive downtown revitalization and economic development.

Douglas
Updated: 2022

Douglas cultivates economic development from three angles— by intensifying entrepreneurship and small business efforts, by diversifying industrial recruitment and employers, and by preparing a cadre of new leaders to move the community’s vision forward.

Indiana

Reynolds
Updated: 2022

A small town with 550 people and 150,000 hogs turns an agricultural waste product into an economic asset. By converting waste from hog farming into a local energy supply, Reynolds is working to become the first energy self-sufficient community in America.

Iowa

Fairfield
Updated: 2022

After losing Parsons College, the town’s main economic anchor, civic leaders in Fairfield took a risk and sold the campus to an alternative California university—a move that would lead to unique town-gown relations and ultimately play a role in Fairfield’s rich diversity, strong civic infrastructure, and pioneering entrepreneurial networks.

Maryland

Oakland
Updated: 2022

Oakland demonstrates that the arrival of Wal-Mart need not be a death knell for small, local businesses. Through the Main Street Program, Oakland works with existing business owners to prepare for the arrival of Wal-Mart.

Minnesota

Houston
Updated: 2022

The Houston public school system capitalizes on an opportunity to partner with a private sector entity to develop an online learning curriculum.

New York Mills
Updated: 2022

This town invests in the creative energy of rural artists. Through a regional cultural center, New York Mills attracts outside talent and energy into their town, bringing fresh perspective on the community’s challenges and opportunities.

Pelican Rapids
Updated: 2022

Pelican Rapids is a diverse rural community where eighteen different languages are spoken in the elementary school. By developing cross-cultural learning opportunities and a youth soccer league, this community capitalizes on the entrepreneurial talents of local immigrants.

Mississippi

Hollandale
Updated: 2022

Recognizing that the availability of public transportation would enhance its economic development prospects, Hollandale partners with its neighboring communities to design, test, and implement an innovative rural transportation network.

Missouri

Branson
Updated: 2022

Branson, with a local economy reliant on theater-based tourism, doesn’t rest on its laurels. Local leaders pursue a large mixed-use project to diversify Branson’s economy and to increase year-round employment.

Chillicothe
Updated: 2022

Upon learning that its major employer will be closing, civic leaders in Chillicothe band together to save a correctional facility that has become a valuable part of this town’s economic and civic life.

Nebraska

Ord
Updated: 2022

In the face of dramatic population decline, Ord builds local capacity to pursue its four pillars of community economic development: youth outreach, leadership development, philanthropy, and entrepreneurship.

North Carolina

Ayden
Updated: 2018

Instead of allowing failed projects from the past to depress the community further, Ayden creates a new vision, enables local residents to implement the vision and revitalizes both downtown and a sense of civic pride.

Bakersville and Hayesville
Updated: 2022

Two small rural communities in the mountains of North Carolina build civic infrastructure and partnerships, and boost tourism by elevating heritage and cultural assets and revitalizing downtown.

Belmont
Updated: 2022

Belmont paired an emergency small business loan program with the “Keep the Lights on in Belmont” program to drive residents to support local enterprises and raise funds for an emergency relief grant for downtown businesses.

Black Mountain
Updated: 2022

This small town bridges a thriving local arts scene with economic development to restore its cultural identity and enlarge the tax base.

Brevard
Updated: 2022

Brevard capitalizes on the economic value of retirees, and not just as consumers. Local retirees assemble an award-winning network of “consultants,” who support new and existing businesses.

Burke County
Updated: 2022

The Carolina District pivoted its work in response to COVID-19 and subsequent demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and cloth face coverings, supplying hospitals and public-school systems, among other clients throughout North Carolina.

Caldwell County
Updated: 2022

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute leveraged an existing relationship with Google to improve broadband access and obtain 75 Chromebooks.

Center for Advanced Hindsight – Durham
Updated: 2021

The Center for Advanced Hindsight (CAH) at Duke University partnered with the NC State College of Design, Cabarrus County, Catawba County, Gaston County, Haywood County, and Union County to use insights from behavioral science and design to improve community response to COVID-19.

Chimney Rock
Updated: 2022

A downtown makeover and the construction of a river walk, joining Chimney Rock’s business district to the Rocky Broad River, spurs the creation of new businesses.

Columbia
Updated: 2022

The ecotourism strategy in Columbia is characterized by an innovative approach to governance and dogged protection of natural resources.

Davidson
Updated: 2022

Davidson preserves its small town character in the face of development pressure from nearby Charlotte.

Dillsboro
Updated: 2018

Dillsboro turned an environmental pollutant into an economic asset by converting landfill methane gas into energy to power local artists’ studios at the Jackson County Green Energy Park. The results include new businesses and jobs for the community.

Durham
Updated: 2022

Achieving Economic Development through Mission-Oriented Real Estate Development

Edenton
Updated: 2018

Elected officials in Edenton partner with an historic preservation non-profit organization to turn the dilapidated Edenton Cotton Mill into a new economic asset for the community.

Elkin
Updated: 2018

Elkin builds on the local craft economy by investing in an artisan craft guild and an apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship program provides craft training and mentorship, as well as small business skills to artisan entrepreneurs.

Farmville
Updated: 2022

A historically tobacco-dependent community, Farmville ensures its long-term vitality through diversification. Today, furniture, health care, construction, warehousing and service industries can all be found thriving in this small North Carolina town. Farmville invests in local businesses and schools, and markets itself to new industries and residents.

Fayetteville
Updated: 2022

The City of Fayetteville, NC expanded on an existing small business loan program to fund emergency grants intended to keep businesses from shutting down in the area. Through a dense network of partnerships, the City was able to target assistance to the businesses that needed it most.

Gaston County
Updated: 2022

Leadership in Gaston County noticed that reports of child abuse significantly decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The assistant county manager gathered community stakeholders to address process improvements for reporting to ensure the wellbeing of children and families.

Hillsborough
Updated: 2017

With an identity proudly rooted in its small town history, and a location ideal for commercial development, Hillsborough strikes a savvy balance between preservation of its past and growth for its future.

Jacksonville
Updated: 2022

Jacksonville, North Carolina has established the Utility Assistance Program in order to ensure that the city’s citizens have their basic needs covered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Bern
Updated: 2022

New Bern, NC took a collaborative approach to maintain tourism and support small businesses, leveraging statewide resources and running several local programs to ensure that local businesses could reopen and position the town as a safe travel destination.

Oxford
Updated: 2022

Located 30 miles north of the booming Research Triangle Park, Oxford is partnering with Granville County and its neighbors to implement a “mini-hub” approach to economic development. The strategy is to prepare relatively low-cost industrial sites that are attractive to companies that need to be near the Research Triangle, but not in it.

Pasquotank and Perquimans Counties
Updated: 2022

Two rural counties in northeastern North Carolina partner together to land a renewable energy development that boosts the tax base and provides new income to agricultural land owners.

Person County
Updated: 2022

Person County introduces a rapid short-term loan for local small businesses to combat economic downturn from COVID-19 and ensure the longevity of the community.

Sanford
Updated: 2022

A small yet strong manufacturing community grows through diverse industry recruitment, strategic partnerships, and intentional leadership in Lee County, NC.

Scotland Neck
Updated: 2018

Strong mayoral leadership leads this small town to implement new strategies for addressing old challenges. Scotland Neck helps its small businesses to attract tourists and attracts new industries that can employ the local workforce.

Siler City
Updated: 2022

This small town is capitalizing on the economic value of arts-based small businesses. Through a unique partnership with a regional community college, Siler City is nurturing the creativity and entrepreneurship of local artists.

Sparta
Updated: 2022

Through a regional collaboration, Sparta and neighboring communities are laying the groundwork for a cluster of advanced materials businesses. As a key partner in the effort, Sparta is focused on workforce training, infrastructure development and private sector participation in the partnership.

Spruce Pine
Updated: 2022

Spruce Pine is at the center of western North Carolina’s craft and culture economy. By producing and marketing products from a children’s story, it is redefining economic development for others.

Star
Updated: 2022

In the wake of shuttered textile mills and climbing unemployment, Star joined with a regional non-profit partner to develop a business incubator, located in a former mill building, which provides space and training to local artisans.

Tryon
Updated: 2022

A rural community that was cut-off from state-of-the-art broadband technology took matters into its own hands. Tryon financed and built a fiber optic network cable to provide its residents and businesses with broadband Internet access.

Wadesboro
Updated: 2022

Wadesboro partnered with a regional community college to convert an abandoned textile mill complex into a tremendous economic asset. The Lockhart-Taylor Center includes space for a business incubator, entrepreneurship training, and public meeting space.

Washington
Updated: 2022

Located at the center of a regional cluster of marine and boat-building businesses, Washington partners with the community college to create a workforce development and entrepreneurship program to capitalize on the booming industry.

Wilson County

After building Greenlight, North Carolina’s first and only community-owned fiber network, Wilson County needed fiber technicians to install and maintain the network’s growing infrastructure. To meet this workforce need, Wilson County leveraged its unique assets in the tech industry to develop fiber optics training for anyone looking to develop skills in the industry. The fiber optics training program was such a success that in 2019 the County worked to expand the program and increase access to it. By leveraging its existing strengths in tech and creating workforce opportunities for residents, the County worked to expand tech opportunities across the region.

Yancey County
Updated: 2022

Yancey County supports two of its economic development strategies, tourism and business development, by offering Downtown Entrepreneurship Assistance Grants to small business owners.

North Dakota

Rugby
Updated: 2022

Recognizing the lack of computer skills among its workforce, Rugby partnered with a state-wide training program to enhance the job skills of its citizenry. Its investment in workforce development is attracting new businesses to Rugby.

Ohio

Nelsonville
Updated: 2022

Civic leaders in this historic coal mining community subsidized downtown storefront rent for artist-retailers. Over a period of five years, artists cleaned up downtown storefronts and brought the town’s downtown square back into economic productivity.

Oregon

Dora
Updated: 2022

In Dora, a major renovation of the fire station, library and community center is intended to spark further investment in this small rural town.

South Carolina

Allendale
Updated: 2022

A small rural community in South Carolina creates a leadership institute to cultivate local leadership, generate grant funding, and to confront the racial divide.

Tennessee

Etowah
Updated: 2022

Etowah’s persistence and high standards yielded one of the most scenic rail trips in the nation, an attraction that is spurring downtown retail, restaurant and hospitality development and innovative approaches to industrial recruitment.

Virginia

Abingdon
Updated: 2022

The Barter Theatre, a staple tourist attraction in Abingdon, VA, was forced to indefinitely close its doors when the pandemic hit. The Barter then created “Barter at the Moonlite,” repurposing a former drive-in movie theater in the community for performances. The venue serves as an innovative way to continue attracting tourists to the area.

Big Stone Gap
Updated: 2022

This town’s choice to embrace ecotourism and to support local entrepreneurs is transforming the local economy and providing residents with a sense of accomplishment and independence from the control of industry outsiders.

Cape Charles
Updated: 2020

With a local economy crippled by plant closures and environmental problems, Cape Charles bridges these challenges with the nation's first eco-industrial park.

Washington

Puyallup
Updated: 2022

Through the Winter Ready Funds Program, the City of Puyallup awards one-time $5,000 grants (a total of $150,000) to eligible local restaurant and retail businesses for purchasing equipment and making other necessary adjustments to be able to serve customers outdoors during the pandemic restrictions.

West Virginia

Webster Springs
Updated: 2022

A rural community creates a program to harness the town’s volunteer spirit. The Webster County Community Fund is providing grants to initiatives that enhance quality of life in Webster Springs.