Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
October 21, 2003
Concerted action required for rural economy, new report says
Educational and training opportunities, partnerships with neighbouring communities and new governmental infrastructure are key to survival – and success – in rural economies, according to a new University of Guelph report.
Towards More Effective Rural Economic Development in Ontario, written by Prof. David Douglas, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, makes a number of recommendations for practices, policies and programs to aid Ontario’s economically ailing rural areas. “The report offers practical measures for rural communities and municipalities to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills required to overcome fierce economic competition in an increasingly open economy,” Douglas said.
The report follows three years of intensive research and addresses economic stresses that Ontario rural communities continue to face. It hands down recommendations to rural municipalities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, provincial and federal governments, the private sector, the economic development profession, and colleges and universities.
Douglas, along with principal research assistant and doctoral student Sandra Chadwick-Parkes and a team of researchers, conducted surveys of rural Ontario municipalities on a large scale, gathering information on funding, staffing, budgeting, planning and a number of other economic issues.
They’ve identified serious deficiencies in capacity throughout rural Ontario, through a total of five technical reports that have been published through the school. The final report calls for rural communities with limited resources or personnel to form partnerships with neighbouring communities. It also suggests that rural colleges, universities and private-sector professionals commit to a proactive approach in providing education and training to rural youth.
The team recommends that provincial and federal governments create rural development administrative bodies and fund local economic development internship programs, which would provide education, training and job opportunities for those entering the rural economic development profession.
“Persistent economic stress, increasing fiscal pressures and clear evidence of a significant gap in local economic development capacities across a majority of Ontario’s rural communities have created an urgent need for concerted action,” Douglas said. “This report is fundamentally about livelihood and is extremely important to the health and vitality of local economies, which play a vital role in the life of rural communities.”