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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Rural Virginia Prosperity Commission

Farm Business Management Update, February 2002

By Wayne Purcell

The final report of the Rural Virginia Prosperity Commission is now available on the web site at Wayne Purcell, George McDowell, Karen Mundy, and Karen O'Connor served as staff for the Commission and made numerous contributions to the analysis and final report. Subject to calendar commitments, Wayne Purcell and/or George McDowell would be willing to attend meetings and make a presentation on this study and the recommendations presented to the Commonwealth. The recommendations of the Commission address six strategic needs for prosperity in rural Virginia.

  1. Capital Access: No place can prosper without entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs require access to capital. Ways are needed to make more credit available to rural entrepreneurs who have good ideas but little collateral. The capital access program Virginia already has in place needs to be expanded to reach rural areas.
  2. Workforce Training and Adult Education: Rural Virginia suffers from having too many adults without high school diplomas and with inadequate opportunities for customized worker training and retraining. Without a high school diploma or GED, workforce training may be of little value. The community college system must be made a partner in a major effort to upgrade the human capital in rural Virginia.
  3. Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure: For understandable economic reasons, the private sector has been slow to provide high-speed, broadband digital telecommunications access to much of rural Virginia. Returns on investment are much higher if they are made in or between urban centers. Yet without such access, rural communities have no possibility of overcoming the disadvantages of remoteness. Public/private partnerships are needed to ensure that rural Virginia is not left behind in acquiring access to digital telecommunication opportunities.
  4. Tiered Incentives for Investment in Lagging Rural Areas: Several neighboring states provide tiered tax incentives aimed at offsetting some of the inherent disadvantages of being remote and lacking the critical mass needed to sustain economic growth. A tiered incentive program, tailored to Virginia's needs, is essential for communities in rural Virginia to compete successfully with places in neighboring states.
  5. Long-Term Institutional Support: Local grassroots leadership in rural Virginia must be enhanced and nourished. A focal point for rural concerns must be established through new public/private sector partners in the form of a Center for Rural Virginia.
  6. Secretary of Agriculture: Virginia is one of few states that does not have a cabinet-level secretary of agriculture. A prosperous agriculture will not be enough to assure a prosperous rural Virginia. Yet a prosperous and innovative agriculture is important for economic health in rural Virginia, and achieving such requires that agriculture be represented at the highest levels of the executive branch of the Commonwealth government.

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