Redefining Rural Development in Michigan’s New Economy

Redefining Rural Development in Michigan’s New Economy

This recent summary piece describes both the definition of rural development in Michigan and how it has changed in recent years. It includes both opportunities and challenges for Michigan’s rural economy going forward.

Overview: Rural development is a broad term for economic activity in non-urban geographic areas. Derived from the agricultural sector, rural business development is used by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the context of its many of its loan, grant, and related activities. Outside of the USDA, rural development refers to business activity in “rural” areas.

“Rural” can also be defined as any economic activity that takes in place outside of urban population centers of 50,000. In Michigan, rural business development encompasses economic development in 78 of the state’s 83 counties that are as classified as “rural”. The map below shows population density that illustrates the rural character outside of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties (Metropolitan Detroit).

Rural business development has historically been a nebulous title that applies to any economic activity in sparsely populated counties. The tone for rural development to focus for the most part on agriculture was set early in Michigan’s history when the state’s rural territory consisted of mostly agrarian farmers. This original infrastructure was strengthened with Michigan State University and its related research and outreach efforts (MSU Cooperative Extension).

Within Michigan’s state government, rural development (up until recently) has been managed by the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DeLEG). DeELG has struggled to define what rural development means or provided concrete parameters for addressing the needs of business or economic activity in rural towns, village centers, and counties.  Read the rest of the article

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