Will Economic Recovery be an Opportunity for a Rural Reset?
May 19, 2020
One of the greatest challenges for rural communities over the past few years has been the trend towards urbanization.
Any number of specialized, rural-focused non-profits, government programs, think tanks and campaigns could not seem to breach the Urban-Rural Divide.
We’ve been encouraged to incorporate the “Rising Tide Lifts All Ships” mentality into our growth expectations. And, while it’s true that we have some of THE BEST regional partners, allies, and tout-worthy amenities as a part of the Research Triangle region, in Person County, we’ve still been slow to see the wave crest.
But, Times, are They A-Changin’?
None of us needs another economic forecast webinar to know that COVID-19 has had devasting economic impacts. In this case, the shockwaves have been felt across all communities. Salon owners and restaurateurs in big cities face the same current challenges as those in small ones.
Several other differences between coronavirus impacts and previous economic events could go further towards expanding the geographic playing field for where workers choose to live and companies select to locate.
Opportunities Available Under Social Distancing Measures
While all of North Carolina has an abundance of beauty and greenspace, rural communities naturally have more area for residents to work, shop, and recreate safely, while social distancing.
A news article1 from Forbes sharing the results of a study done by Moody’s Analytics has been shared broadly over the last few days, highlighting the fact that Durham and Raleigh are ranked by the study as those among the top ten US cities positioned to recover from the coronavirus. This is great news in and of itself, but one thing that is not brought out in the article, or other places it has been shared, is that cities were selected based partly on population density as compared to educational attainment and that the area examined was the “core-based statistical area (CBSA)”. In the case of Durham, the CBSA includes Person County.
Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Statistical Area; image credit: http://proximityone.com/metros/2013/cbsa20500.htm
Durham’s high marks were helped along by Person County’s low-density population, which likely also factors into our current standing of 1 coronavirus case per 1,230 people, as compared to Durham’s present ratio of 1:380.
Economies where residents, patrons, and employees have the most opportunities to go about life with flexibility and confidence under social distancing measures will have a leg up on recovery.
That manufacturers will look to reshore operations in the face of a global pandemic is more than a concept; it is our present reality. From March 15th to today, Person County has responded to project requests totaling more than $1 billion in investment and projecting over 3,400 jobs.
We are positioned to respond as a rural county with a rich history in manufacturing, which is workforce-ready and able to meet the infrastructure needs for advanced manufacturing as a result of site preparation at the Person County Mega Park, extensive fiber expansion constructed across the county, excess water and sewer capacity available through the City of Roxboro, and a high-capacity electric grid built out from the two Duke Energy power plants located here.
More investment in the US means more opportunities for prepared rural communities.
Demand for Local… Everything
Supply chain disruption, shortages of safe, fresh food, and a renewed appreciation of local small businesses who modified their offerings to become mini grocers and school cafeteria replacements are all reasons that vendors, distributors, food processors and farmers will locate closer to their markets, and consumers will choose to patronize those who served them for the sake of community as much as for commerce.
In Person County, our #SupportLocal spirit has materialized in the form of emergency assistance, small business COVID PIVOT Impact Loans, a program supported with more local funding per capita than any other program in the state, as well as the #KeepRoxboroRunning campaign. This #EatLocal, #ShopLocal message is displayed on banners and signs all around the county and will play on the “Running” aspect of the campaign tagline to culminate in a virtual 5K in early June. (More on the KRR campaign in a future post.)
Rural Rediscovery = Robust Recovery
Our best strategy as individuals, businesses, and governments on all levels will be to continue to #FlattentheCurve – not just the curve that measures virus outbreaks, but the one that tracks where investment goes across the landscape of our great state. When all of our assets are leveraged, then, we will be ready, come what may.
Person County is a part of the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina, with proximity to the Piedmont Triad Region and is a border county to Virginia. Person County Economic Development serves as the primary contact for business and industry seeking to locate or expand in Person County. Contact us today for available buildings, sites, or other information.