Asset-Based Economic Development and Building Sustainable Rural Communities

Posted on: November 13th, 2012 by Kathy Nothstine

The International City/County Management Association (http://icma (ICMA) has released a three-part series of briefing papers focused on asset-based economic development and building sustainable rural communities.

The three new briefing papers showcase how a number of small communities are tackling sustainability and smart growth through asset based economic development.

Pella, Iowa has a thriving downtown with many locally owned businesses. The local businesses are supported by both the local manufacturing and tourism industries. The downtown design guidelines emphasize the city’s Dutch heritage. Photo courtesy of the city of Pella.

The first paper starts off by defining asset-based economic development and provides several case studies on industry and industrial clusters, including the city of Pella, Iowa. If that name sounds familiar it may be because you have Pella windows or doors in your home keeping the warmth in and cold out.  There are other industries that help keep this small town manufacturing cluster alive and well, and as the case study in the brieing paper notes, there is a strong public-private partnership effort to recruit and develop sectors and industries that are compatible with the community’s economic strengths.  Other communities in Colorado and Arkansas are also profiled in this first paper. Read it here.

The second briefing paper looks at natural resource strengths and working landscapes, which often provide the basis for rural economic activities.  In this paper, a case study of Killington, Vermont showcases how one community has focused its efforts to strengthen and sustainably grow its economic base, largely around tourism and recreational amenities.  Importantly, while many on the east coast think of Killington as a winter resort area, the community has worked hard to showcase Killington as a four-seasons community with outdoor, cultural and recreational amenities year round. Read it here.

Part three looks more closely at historic and cultural resources as well as existing infrastructure such as Main Streets and town squares.   Silver City, New Mexico and Lindsborg, Kansas are profiled more closely in this paper providing lessons learned for other communities considering how to benefit from their existing infrastructure and historic and cultural amenities. Read it here.

You can also access all three papers, and learn more about ICMA’s work on sustainability and smart growth issues, on ICMA’s sustainability topic page (http://icma


This report was researched and written by ICMA, through a subcontract agreement with NADO Research Foundation. NADO Research Foundation provided overall guidance and project direction. The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government. For more information, contact Tad McGalliard at ICMA at [email protected] (tmcgalliard null@null ICMA

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