Volume XVI | Issue 2 | Fall 2016
Southwestern Oregon Food Systems Collaborative promotes local seafood.

A regional approach to economic development

Boosting rural economies through WealthWorks

A group promoting a regional approach to boosting rural economies is WealthWorks. Originally formed in Appalachia, it has spread across the country to other rural areas. It aims to advance a region’s overall prosperity and self-reliance, strengthen existing and emerging sectors, and increase jobs and incomes.

The goal, organizers say, is to build wealth that can benefit community residents today and for generations to come, while at the same time create value in local people, places and businesses.

In Oregon, for example, the Southwestern Oregon Food Systems Collaborative is researching the complete value chain of the fish and small meat industries to identify gaps and opportunities for investment. The goal: to capture more wealth locally. According to one analysis, if fish could be fully processed (value-added) locally rather than just cleaned and shipped out of the area, an additional $400 million would remain Oregon.

In Michigan, a set of stakeholders—small firms, local tourism bureaus, chambers of commerce, cultural organizations, food concerns, artists, local governments and land managers—came together to connect their dots to attract more tourism. They recognized stranded assets and found ways to build a stronger, regional identity. The result? Tourism revenues have grown. Jobs have been retained and created.

Across the nation, other WealthWorks projects have created a clearinghouse for wood products manufacturers to supply products to green builders in the region, and grown small businesses that supply biofuel production jobs to community college graduates. 

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