Rural community development is a process designed to improve the social and economic well-being of people in rural areas. While community development can be practiced anywhere, it requires special techniques and strategies in rural areas, where political and economic power is typically less developed than in urban areas. The rural community development process may involve strategies ranging from education and workforce development to investment incentives for businesses. It also involves strategic planning from within the community, as well as organizational support from regional and national organizations. Depending on the needs of an area, this process may require investment in infrastructure, education, business, or social services.
One of the primary goals of rural community development relates to drawing businesses to the area. This can be accomplished through the creation of financial and non-financial incentives for businesses and investors. For example, a small town may offer free land to hospitals or medical facilities to encourage the owners or these organizations to build within the community. Some areas offer tax breaks or credits for new businesses, which helps encourage business owners to bring vital services to rural areas. This type of development strategy can also extend to schools, housing, and community services or recreation.
Rural community development may also involve education and workforce development. A trained, skilled workforce can be a major draw for businesses, and may encourage them to set up shop in the community. Skilled workers are also more likely to find jobs elsewhere, leaving fewer unemployed people within the local community, and a greater chance that these people will reinvest in their hometown in some way. Workforce development can take the form of increased spending on education at the primary, secondary, or college level. It may also include stay-in-school initiatives and investment in technical schools.
Another aspect of rural community development involves strategic planning on the part of the community members. As a group, these individuals must meet and identify problem areas and opportunities for improvement. They can take suggestions from the public, or rely on elected representatives. Community leaders are needed to coordinate grassroots campaigns, and draw support from local residents for development issues.
For rural areas to succeed with community development strategies, they must often seek support from organizations and social institutions. These groups offer tools and training to help rural communities meet their goals, or draw support to their cause. Many of these organizations offer funding, grant-writing assistance, and other forms of training to help encourage rural community development. These types of support groups can be either government-funded, non-profit, or funded by private investors.