County News

Rural Action Caucus symposium zeroes in on economic development

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RACpic1.jpgCourtesy of Arthur Scott

Rural Action Caucus members tour the CHS Refinery in Yellowstone County, Mont. CHS is the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative. It recently announced that it is pumping $406 million into the Laurel, Mont. facility.

NACo's Rural Action Caucus (RAC) met in Yellowstone County, Mont. for the 2014 Fall RAC Symposium Nov. 6 8. This year's event brought together over 45 county officials from 15 states.

Throughout the three-day program, RAC members examined how rural counties harness local assets and regional partnerships to bolster rural economic development efforts. The caucus also laid the groundwork for strategies to accomplish key federal policy and legislative goals in the years ahead.

Bullet NACo's Rural Action Caucus

Programming focused on pressing federal legislative and policy priorities that have an impact on county governments. The issues ranged from long-term funding and authorization for federal surface transportation programs, to FY15 federal appropriations, to local control and taxation of online sales and Internet access, to tax-exempt municipal bonds and environmental regulations.

In addition to in-depth policy discussions and a mobile workshop on energy development, county leaders participated in a workshop entitled "Cultivating a Competitive Advantage: How Rural Counties are Growing Economies with Local Assets and Regional Partners," which engaged RAC members in an overview of asset-based economic development strategies for counties.

NACo also debuted a new report of the same name which highlights 15 rural counties' building on natural resources; existing infrastructure, local institutions; historic and cultural resources; and human capital to sustain economic growth and productivity.

Representatives from three counties showcased in the report served on a panel during the workshop to discuss local-level economic development strategies. Yellowstone County, Mont. Commissioner Bill Kennedy talked about his county's partnership on the regional level with the Big Sky Economic Development organization to invest in local infrastructure, train a skilled workforce and attract businesses. Cascade County, Mont. Commissioner Joe Briggs highlighted a number of financial incentives counties can pursue to leverage local quality of life to attract new businesses.

Finally, Renville County, Minn. Commissioner Bob Fox described a five-county partnership to reinvest in a regional short-line railroad to encourage new economic opportunity along the rail line.

Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council joined RAC members to discuss rural issues and initiatives being addressed by the Administration.

As senior policy advisor for rural affairs, McKalip provides advice and counsel to the president on issues involving farm, ranch and trade policy as well as coordination of the White House Rural Council. During the keynote address, McKalip examined the recent "Made in Rural America Export and Investment Initiative" in which NACo partnered with the White House Rural Council to develop a series of regional forums, bringing together rural business and community leaders with federal partners to discuss new opportunities to bolster rural exports and strengthen the local economy.

RAC members were also joined by Nathan Ohle, special advisor for external affairs, U.S. Economic Development Administration, and senior advisors to Senator-elect Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Walsh (D-Mont.), and Gov. Steve Bullock (D).

RACpic2.jpg A Rural Action Caucus member reviews the new NACo report on rural counties and economic development a major topic at the symposium.

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About Arthur Scott (Full Bio)

Associate Legislative Director – Political Outreach Manager

Arthur Scott serves as Associate Legislative Director for NACo’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs portfolio, lobbying on a broad range of issues facing rural counties. Arthur also serves as Political Outreach Manager for NACo developing and leveraging strategic partnerships to help address key county priorities in Congress and the Administration.