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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

The Program for Community Vitality: A Resource for Addressing Issues Related to Economic Development and Land Use

Farm Business Management Update, April 1999

By Jeffrey Alwang of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

The Program for Community Vitality (PCV) was recently formed within the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech. PCV is a combined teaching, extension, and research effort that cuts across all the activities related to community and rural economic development in the Department. It builds on and is complementary to REAP. The program's mission is to strengthen the capacity of Virginia's communities to improve their quality of life. This mission is achieved, in part, by helping community leaders acquire the knowledge and analytical tools needed to enhance their capacity to make decisions and evaluate policy alternatives. In addition, PCV conducts educational programs for community residents that will enable them to better understand public policy issues and make better decisions.

PCV has four main ongoing areas of research and public education programming:

  1. Land use analysis and local government land use planning

    Land use decision making is becoming increasingly important to local governments. Issues include everything from maintenance of open space, control of sprawl, and conflicts between agriculture and other uses of the land. PCV conducts analyses of land use practices, zoning, subdivision regulations, and capital improvements programming. Publications soon to be available in this area address: a) the public and private sector players (developers, citizens, elected and appointed officials, state and federal government, etc.) in land use decision making; b) a description of the land use decision process; c) how to conceptualize the distribution of cost and benefits of land use decisions; and d) the tradeoffs between the economic impact, impact on public sector revenues and expenses.

  2. School finance and rural education

    School finance and rural education includes analysis of and programming in the consequences of various school funding decisions for rural areas. Programming is also being developed related to analyses of the returns to rural education and the development impacts of various educational decisions in rural areas. Several publications already exist on the process of school finance decisions, the role of the property tax in school finance, and individual and social returns to investments in education.

  3. Economic and fiscal impact analysis

    Rural communities are involved in a number of decisions that affect the economic well being and the fiscal balance of the local government. PCV has an analytical model that can help quantify the economic and fiscal impacts of such decisions. Applications exist in the area of industry (firm) location, existing industry including agricultural production, and land use decisions (such as the economic and fiscal impacts of different types of housing). Publications exist on the impacts of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, the overall impact of agriculture, and a publication is forthcoming on how to think through the economic and fiscal impacts of an event.

  4. Rural policy analysis including welfare reform, health care, etc.

    Responsibility for decision making and funding is being devolved from federal and state governments to local governments. The capacity of local governments to address some of these issues is being taxed. PCV can provide analytical and technical support in these areas. Welfare reform has the potential to have a major impact on localities in rural Virginia. Several state and federal laws increase the responsibilities of localities in addressing welfare-to-work transitions, workforce training identification, job search, etc. A major research effort is being undertaken in this area, and extension materials are also being produced. Other materials could be produced on the contribution of health care providers to the local economy and how this contribution changes with industry consolidation and federal policy changes.

The PCV is a means of bridging research and outreach efforts in rural development. Outreach is conducted through formal published materials, but real-time support for solutions to community issues is also provided. Extension is viewed as a two-way street, and the PCV will adapt some of its programming to meet specific needs of Virginia's localities.

For more information on the PCV, please contact

Jeffrey Alwang
(540) 231-6517
     Dr. Michael Chandler
(540) 231-6921

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