(INDIANAPOLIS) — A new strategy is working to change how rural communities think about economic development by helping them leverage the strongest asset in their backyard – agriculture.
Known as the Rural Economic Development Model, the process involves utilizing an online interactive tool and guidebook to develop an ag-based economic development plan which will expand current agribusinesses and attract complimentary processing companies to the region.
“Oftentimes, we see rural communities targeting an automotive plant or medical device manufacturer—overlooking agriculture completely,” said Bruce Kettler, Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director. “We want to encourage local decision-makers to think differently about their economic development strategy. Agriculture is at the core of so many Hoosier communities and, if leveraged properly, has the potential to keep growing or, in some cases, reinvigorate rural Indiana.”
Critical to the strategy’s launch was the development of the Indiana Ag Asset Maps, which can be found on the Rural Indiana Stats website, created and managed by the Purdue Center for Regional Development. These first-of-their-kind heat maps provide information about the agricultural products grown and raised in each county to include fruits, vegetables, grains, and livestock, and a section showcasing the various companies supporting the hardwoods industry in Indiana.
Communities can use this information to build an ag-based economic development strategy or grow value-added processing by creating “agriculture regions.”
“Bringing value-added processing to an area benefits more than just producers, it shores up the local economy and entire agricultural ecosystem,” said Dr. Bo Beaulieu, PCRD Director. “It can be a game-changer and opens the door to new possibilities for rural communities, which continue to struggle with attracting young, talented workers.”
The Rural Economic Development Model was developed in collaboration with the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Economic Development Association, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and Purdue Center for Regional Development.
Communities interested in agriculture as an important component of their economic development strategy should contact the project partners. Together they will facilitate a conversation with an overview of the Rural Economic Development Model and a review of the regional analysis provided by PCRD. The goal is to help rural communities create fully implementable ag strategies.
“For too long, we have looked at Indiana’s agricultural production as a passive asset: grown here, but sent elsewhere for value-added processing,” said Lee Lewellen, Indiana Economic Development Association President and CEO. “We want economic developers and farmers to come together to see Indiana’s robust ag assets as the raw material for a different kind of manufacturing base in rural communities.”
Click here to view the Indiana ag asset maps.