Prof to Assist Rural Communities

September 04, 2009 - News Release

Helping struggling rural municipalities cope with economic decline is the goal of a new project headed by a University of Guelph professor and backed by the federal government.

Prof. Wayne Caldwell, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, has received an $83,000 grant from Industry Canada’s Community Adjustment Fund (Ontario).

He plans to develop a “how to” manual aimed at guiding rural communities through difficult economic times. It will identify and explain best practices for ailing municipalities, highlight success stories of other rural areas and provide approaches to improve local conditions.

“The goal is to assist these communities in planning and delivering responses to the problems they are facing as a result of the economic downturn,” said Caldwell, who specializes in change in rural and agricultural communities.

“Many rural communities are worried about their future. They’re dealing with loss of population, tax assessment and employment and other changes. They also often suffer from lack of resources and are challenged with trying to decide what to do in response to economic problems.”

Rural communities recognized as leaders in economic development will be selected as “case studies” for the project. Caldwell, along with recent PhD graduates Jennifer Ball and Bronwynne Wilton and master’s students Katie Temple and Arthur Churchyard, will determine the partnerships, programs and other activities that led to positive outcomes in these municipalities.

“These success stories become valuable because they can help ‘show the way’ for other communities that are struggling,” Caldwell said.

Best practices will be identified from the case studies. Practices likely to be highlighted include tourism development, co-ordinating local manufacturing, economic development planning, local business retention and expansion, and community engagement.

Before publishing the manual, Caldwell and the research team will review and refine the practices and approaches to determine the applicability for other rural communities. “We’ll share the information with the municipalities to help determine long-term utility,” he said.

“Ideally, we’d like to see a more engaged and successful municipal sector across the province.”

This is just the latest in a series of “how to” manuals Caldwell has published. In 2006, he wrote The Urbanite's Guide to the Countryside as a primer for people visiting or travelling through farm country and rural communities in southern Ontario. Along with Prof. Karen Landman, he wrote the Rural Landowner Stewardship Guide in 2007. He has also developed materials to deal with conflict resolution in rural communities.

A U of G professor since 2000, Caldwell studies farmland preservation, rural conflict resolution, local governance and community-based approaches to economic and environmental issues. He is also president of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338/, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982/

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