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NACo
County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
Coffee County: Growing Economic Opportunity One Hoop House at a TimeNew

As part of NACo’s commitment to enhancing economic prospects in America’s rural counties, we are releasing a series of blog posts that highlight economic development in rural places.  These blog posts, adapted from case studies featured in the recent NACo publication, Cultivating a Competitive Advantage: How Rural Counties are Growing Economies with Local Assets and Regional Partners, share innovative best practices exemplified by rural counties.

Located in southeast Alabama, Coffee County ranks among the state’s top five counties in total agricultural production.  Despite deep-seated ties to the agriculture industry, many residents and small farmers live below the state poverty line and have limited access to healthy food.  Acknowledging broad income and food disparities throughout the region, Coffee County works with Wiregrass RC&D, which covers a ten-county region and is part of the system of conservation districts designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to improve the local economy and enhance quality of life.  The county leveraged Wiregrass RC&D’s regional resources to develop a program that provides residents and growers with more effective methods for growing crops, enhancing the agricultural industry while providing economic opportunities to low-income residents and minority farmers.

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Coffee County, Alabama courthouse. Source:
Flickr.

In October 2013, the Wiregrass RC&D Executive Board received a USDA Natio...

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3 days ago | 0

(NACo Podcasts) Creating Trauma-Informed Counties

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Nearly one in three children aged 12 to 17 have experienced two or more traumatic events.  Counties across the country are not only addressing childhood trauma, but are creating trauma-informed communities.  Hear from Wilson County, N.C. and San Diego County, Calif. to learn why and how they are creating a trauma-informed culture in their counties.


Subscribing to NACo Podcasts is simple.  If you are using an Apple device, while on your device, click the "Subscribe Via iTunes" button below.  Once subscribed, new episdoes will be automatically pushed to your device.  For other devices, subscribe via RSS, or download today's episode directly to your device.  Click here for a full listing of NACo Podcasts episodes.

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4 days ago | 0

Randolph County: Using New Planning Strategies to Prioritize Community Trends

As part of NACo’s commitment to enhancing economic prospects in America’s rural counties, we are releasing a series of blog posts that highlight economic development in rural places.  These blog posts, adapted from case studies featured in the recent NACo publication, Cultivating a Competitive Advantage: How Rural Counties are Growing Economies with Local Assets and Regional Partners, share innovative best practices exemplified by rural counties.

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Randolph County Courthouse. Source: flickr.​

Beginning in the mid-2000s, leaders in Randolph County, West Va., began to recognize several trends that would affect the county’s long-term viability.  Residents faced a lack of affordable housing options and an inefficient public transit system. The county population was estimated to stay constant by 2035, at around 300,000 residents, although the number of senior citizens was projected to double.  To adequately address the needs of both the workforce and aging population, Randolph embarked on a countywide housing, transportation and community development planning effort.

In 2010, the Randolph County Housing Authority (RCHA) received a Community Challenge Planning Grant, a joint federal grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The RCHA partnered with the Randolph County Commission, the Randolph County Economic Development Authority and the Randolph County Senior Centerto use the gra...

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5 days ago | 0

Star Communities is Now Accepting Applications for the Spring 2015 Leadership Program

Written by Jen Horton​, NACo Program Manager.

STAR Communities is pleased to announce the opportunity for U.S. counties, towns and cities to participate in the Spring 2015 Leadership STAR Community Program.  The Leadership Program provides extensive staff support and services to a cohort of communities as they work through the STAR Community Rating System measuring local sustainability.  Communities with high enough scores receive a certified STAR Community Rating and are nationally recognized for their leadership in sustainability.​

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Join the growing list of communities leading the nation in sustainability.

In the past two years, 58 cities and counties have participated in the Leadership Program. To date, 20 have achieved STAR certification with another 15-18 expected to certify this winter.  Learn more and see what Leadership and Certified communities say about the program here.  Applications for the Spring 2015 Leadership Program are due January 16, 2015.

Cost & Scholarship Opportunities
The cost of this one-year program is $7,500 and begins March 1, 2015.  In partnership with The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities (TFN), STAR Communities will make available a limited number of need-based program fee scholarships to communities demonstrating compelling resource constraints and need.

Not ready for the Leadership Program?  Become a Member Community today!
Membership provides you with the basic tools and resources to assess and improve your community’s efforts to promote a healthy environment, a strong economy and well-being for all residents.  Membership also includes the opportunity to...

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9 days ago | 0

Yolo County: Supporting All Levels of the Food System

As part of NACo’s commitment to enhancing economic prospects in America’s rural counties, we are releasing a series of blog posts that highlight economic development in rural places.  These blog posts, adapted from case studies featured in the recent NACo publication, Cultivating a Competitive Advantage: How Rural Counties are Growing Economies with Local Assets and Regional Partners, share innovative best practices exemplified by rural counties.

With a population of just over 200,000, Yolo County is located west of Sacramento at the northern end of California’s Central Valley.  In 2009, Yolo and the five other counties composing the Sacramento Area Council of Governments collaborated with local stakeholders to develop the Rural-Urban Connections Strategy, a regional economic and environmental sustainability plan that looks at the area’s growth objectives from a rural perspective.  As a result, Yolo County has heightened its efforts to facilitate meaningful connections among stakeholders interested in the future of the county’s agriculture industry.  The county seeks to support all aspects of its agriculture sector, from food production, processing and distribution to innovative research and workforce training.

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Agriculture Research Field at UC Davis. Source: Flickr

In 2013, agriculture represented a $721 million industry in Yolo County, with research and development playing an important role.  The University of California, Davi...

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10 days ago | 0

(NACo Podcasts) Innovations in Rural Broadband Delivery

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Surrounded by rivers on three sides, Sherman County is located in rural northern Oregon. Because of the region’s low population density—about half of all residents live in unincorporated areas—access to quality broadband was once difficult to find, and many people were still bound to dial-up and expensive satellite service as recently as the late-2000s.  Sherman County Commissioner Michael Smith joins the podcast to detail the county’s innovative approach and explain how using the existing 911 system as the basis for broadband development can be an efficient strategy for bringing high-speed Internet into low-density areas.


Subscribing to NACo Podcasts is simple.  If you are using an Apple device, while on your device, click the "Subscribe Via iTunes" button below.  Once subscribed, new episdoes will be automatically pushed to your device.  For other devices, subscribe via RSS, or download today's episode directly to your device.  Click here for a full listing of NACo Podcasts episodes.

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2 weeks ago | 0

New Innovation Challenge Program for Coal-reliant Counties and Regions

Written by Jen Horton, NACo Program Manager.
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Recently, the National Association of Counties and the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation, with the support of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, launched a new partnership to support county and regional leaders in coal-reliant communities with retooling their economies to become more resilient to changing conditions. 

Throughout 2015, NACo and NADO Research Foundation will host a series of three intensive, hands-on workshops designed to boost the innovative potential of coal-reliant counties and regions seeking to grow and diversify their economies.  Counties and regions are asked to form teams to apply to enter the program.  Teams that submit winning applications will be selected to attend a hands-on workshop guided by expert facilitators and practitioners.  These workshops will be structured to guide counties and regions to design solutions tailored to their communities’ needs and identify implementable projects.     

Note: There are separate competitions for each of the three workshop opportunities. 

The competition timeline is below:

First Competition:

Application opens: January 7, 2015

First workshop: mid-April, 2015 in eastern Kentucky

Second Competition:

Application opens: late May, 2015

Second workshop: mid-September, 2015 in Colorado

Third Competition:

Application opens: late August, 2015

Third workshop: mid-November, 2015 in West Virginia

The Innovation Challenge is open to all counties and regions in the U.S. that are economically linked to...

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2 weeks ago | 0

​Grafton County: Building a Skilled Labor Force

As part of NACo’s commitment to enhancing economic prospects in America’s rural counties, we are releasing a series of blog posts that highlight economic development in rural places.  These blog posts, adapted from case studies featured in the recent NACo publication, Cultivating a Competitive Advantage: How Rural Counties are Growing Economies with Local Assets and Regional Partners, share innovative best practices exemplified by rural counties.

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Grafton County invests in workforce preparedness programs and supports businesses, helping prepare workers for diverse new job opportunities. Source: Flickr.

Grafton County, located in rural New Hampshire and with a population of nearly 90,000, began encountering workforce concerns in the mid-2000s.  Younger, skilled workers were leaving the county while the county’s workforce population was aging, leaving area-wide business with unmet employment needs.  In an effort to retain and grow a younger, skilled workforce in the county, Grafton leaders have invested in a variety of programs to train workers and support small businesses, including a high school workforce preparedness program and a business incubator.

Grafton County actively encourages workforce preparedness among its younger workers by supporting the North Country Workplace Education Program.  Designed to build, maintain and expand a skilled workforce, the program places students from three local high schools in internships with local ...

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2 weeks ago | 0

Minnesota Counties of Carver, Redwood, Renville, Sibley and Yellow Medicine: Collaboration Restores Rail Service to Rural Minnesota

As part of NACo’s commitment to enhancing economic prospects in America’s rural counties, we are releasing a series of blog posts that highlight economic development in rural places.  These blog posts, adapted from case studies featured in the recent NACo publication, Cultivating a Competitive Advantage: How Rural Counties are Growing Economies with Local Assets and Regional Partners, share innovative best practices exemplified by rural counties.

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Five Minnesota Counties are partnering to restore service to a regional short line railroad. Source: Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority.

In 1982, several counties in southern Minnesota formed the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority (MVRRA) with the purpose of reopening a 94-mile Class III short line railroad track that was originally built in the 19th century and had fallen into disrepair.  Several attempts were made, without success, to restore service to the line before the MVRRA—which had grown to include the five counties of Carver, Redwood, Renville, Sibley and Yellow Medicine—secured funding in 2002 to rehabilitate the track.  The project’s financing included $4.8 million from the state and $1 million from the federal government, and the Minnesota Rail Shippers and MVRRA each provided an additional $600,000.

The 2002 project began with improving the rail infrastructure and resulted in reestablished rail service on the short line.  Minnesota Prairi...

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2 weeks ago | 0

Five Counties Chosen to Host a County Prosperity Summit in 2015

​Written by Jen Horton, NACo Program Manager.

 

NACo is pleased to announce the five county recipients that will host a County Prosperity Summit in 2015.  The selected counties for the County Prosperity Summit program are*:

  • Cape May County, NJ

  • Cheatham County, TN

  • Scott County, KY

  • Shasta County, Calif.

  • Titus County, TX

With support from the Ford Foundation, the goal of these summits is to convene local leaders in each county to introduce counties to the WealthWorks framework (learn more here), help counties build strategies to strengthen regional relationships and identify ways to deepen and sustain economic development activities.  NACo will invite national experts to each county who will engage with local leaders to generate new and creative solutions for building and strengthening local economies, and NACo staff will work with each selected county to develop a personalized agenda and individualized content relevant to specific local issues. 

Each summit will convene approximately 25-50 participants, including a broad mixture of county elected officials and staff, other local and regional public officials, business owners, representatives of the nonprofit and philanthropic community and other relevant stakeholders. 

*NACo’s panel of expert reviewers was overwhelmed by the many qualified applications received for the County Prosperity Summit program.  NACo is currently formulating additional resources to support counties interested in new economic development approaches.  For more informa...

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3 weeks ago | 0

New NACo Report: Counties Drive Economic Growth with Transportation and Infrastructure Innovations

​Written by Kathy Nothstine, Program Director

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By building and improving infrastructure that serves resident and business needs, America’s counties connect communities and strengthen local economies.

As NACo kicks off this week’s Symposium on America’s Transportation and Infrastructure, under the leadership of NACo President Riki Hokama, we are pleased to release a ​new report describing how six counties in the U.S. are investing in transportation and infrastructure projects to drive economic growth. 

America’s counties play an essential role in developing transportation and infrastructure networks.  Counties are responsible for building and maintaining 45 percent of public roads and nearly 40 percent of bridges, and are involved in the operations of 30 percent of public airports and nearly one-third of public transportation systems.  Counties invest over $100 billion each year building and maintaining public infrastructure, ranging from water and sewer systems to telecommunications and public utilities. 

These investments drive local and regional economic growth.  An efficient, reliable and cost-effective transportation system is critical to the health of America’s local, regional and national economies, and allows America’s communities to compete in the global marketplace.  Transportation and logistics, along with workforce supply, are major drivers in business site location decisions.  Additionally, a functional, dependable infrastructure network is a critical foundation for businesses seeking to access new mar...

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3 weeks ago | 0

Presidential Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience Announces Recommendations

Written by Rob Pressly​, NACo Program Manager.

In November 2014, the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience provided its recommendations to President Obama for how to improve climate resiliency across the U.S.  These recommendations come following a year of soliciting input from communities, academic organizations and other stakeholder groups to understand people’s first-hand experience dealing with climate-related issues and turn their stories into action items for the federal government to address. 

Following the release of his Climate Action Plan in June 2013, President Obama created the Task Force on November 1, 2013 as part of Executive Order 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change.  The group consists of 26 governors, mayors, county officials and tribal leaders, including Resilient Counties Advisory Board members Commissioner Paula Brooks (Franklin County, Ohio) and Supervisor Salud Carbajal (Santa Barbara County, Calif.), as well as former Green Government Initiative Advisory Board Member Commissioner Kristin Jacobs (Broward County, Fla.).  The Task Force was charged with providing recommendations to the President on how the federal government can address the needs of communities that are impacted by climate issues by eliminating barriers to investments in resilient infrastructure, improving federal grant and loan programs to better support lo...

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4 weeks ago | 0


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