Rural Virginia Prosperity Commission
Farm Business Management Update, December 2000
By Karen Mundy
The 2000 session of the Virginia legislature passed House Joint Resolution No. 129 to create the Rural Virginia Prosperity Commission. The Commission is charged with "a detailed analysis of Virginia's rural economies and recommend flexible but targeted state policies which, combined with local efforts, will help foster sustainable economic growth in Virginia's rural areas. The Commission shall study and recommend what policies and strategies can be instituted or restructured to help rebuild Virginia's rural economy to maximize the effectiveness of federal, state, local and private efforts to assure rural prosperity and a high quality of life in rural communities."
The Commission consists of 18 members:
It is staffed by people from Virginia Tech's Rural Economic Analysis Program and the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
The first two meetings of the Commission were held in Richmond. At these meetings background on rural Virginia was presented by Jim Hite, Staff Director and by people from around the country who work with rural people. Since these initial meetings, two regional meetings have been held to assess the needs of local communities. These meetings were held in Staunton and Danville. Four other meetings are planned: Abingdon (December 12 at Virginia Highland Community College); Richmond (February-no date available); Virginia Beach (March); and Fredericksburg (April). All Commission meetings are opened to the public.
Infrastructure for high-tech communication like the internet is lacking or insufficient. Many lines are required to an area to guarantee that access will always be available. In many rural communities, this redundancy (many lines to the area) is lacking. Consequently, businesses needing high speed access are concerned that someone being careless with a backhoe, for example, could cut their line, and they would lose business as a result.
Local schools may graduate 98 percent of their students, but the educational level of the residents may be less than high school. The brighter students go on to college and do not return because they have no jobs available to them that will pay the salaries they can get in other areas. Often the students who graduate do not continue their education-even by attending community colleges or vocational training. Many of the localities lack the resources to retrain people for jobs that require more highly technical skills.
Health care is also a problem because the focus is on treatment rather than prevention. Hospitals also face economies of size issues. A hospital with an obstetrics unit serving only 30 women a year cannot cover the costs of the services unless these services are subsidized. Many of these smaller hospitals are being forced to close because of the high costs of medical services. How much money would prevention save? According to Rebecca Reeve of IQ Health, the savings average $3.35 per $1.00 invested. And the cost of absenteeism from illness can be reduced by $4.90 per $1.00 invested.
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