Rural Development: Three Views

[imgbelt img=Clinton_1.jpg] Last week three rural development practitioners testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee about what federal rural development programs have meant for their communities.

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Ben French

Taylor Stuckert (left) and Mark Rembert saw their hometown in southwestern Ohio going through economic turmoil and decided they needed to help. They came back to Clinton County and began the hard work of rebuilding the local economy.

Editor’s Note: Last week three rural development practitioners testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee. The topic was “economic growth for rural America” and the Rural Development portion of the Farm Bill. We thought these three rural residents described three important sides of this story — how people decide to work on their communities; what rural development programs can do; and what is to become of federal rural development efforts. Below are excerpts from their testimony.

1. Joining the Rural Development Cause

Mark Rembert, director of Energize Clinton County, Ohio

I grew up in Wilmington, Ohio, a rural community of 12,000 in southwestern Ohio. Like most young people who grow up in small towns, I left home after graduating from high school and attended college in Philadelphia where I studied economics. 

Like most of my generation, I had no plans to return home. The world changed for me—as it did for so many—in 2008. 

I had decided to put my training in economic development to work in the Peace Corps. As I was preparing for my departure, news from home reached me in Philadelphia. DHL, the region’s largest single source of employment, was ending its operations at the Wilmington Air Park. Realizing that the community where I grew up would be changed forever by this crisis, I decided to return home for the final months before my departure to the Peace Corps to reconnect with the community. 

Not long after my arrival in Wilmington, I was joined by Taylor Stuckert— another Wilmington native — who had been prematurely evacuated from his Peace Corps assignment in Bolivia in the fall of 2008. As we witnessed the economic equivalent of a hurricane hitting our hometown, we talked to people throughout the community and quickly recognized a new energy brewing. 

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