Issue Brief: Creating Opportunity and Prosperity Through Strengthening Rural-Urban Connections

rucs_bannerMetropolitan and rural America are highly connected and interdependent. To succeed, metropolitan America needs a healthy and sustainable rural economy and culture, and in turn rural America needs vibrant, well-functioning cities and suburbs to thrive and flourish.  Yet, the prevailing national narrative pits urban versus rural for investments and public resources, and official statistical definitions often create hard lines between urban and rural, and metropolitan and non-metropolitan.

Click to download issue brief (PDF)
Click to download issue brief (PDF)

For most families and businesses, however, there is no clear distinction between urban and rural places. Flows of people, capital, goods, and information continually blur political and geographic boundaries. People commute to work, make family visits, or take trips and vacations. Businesses source materials and labor across regions largely ignoring rural-urban boundaries, and sell their goods and materials to customers irrespective of their locations. Rural economies and places supply food, energy, workers, and ecosystem services while urban economies and places provide markets, capital, jobs, and specialized services, reinforcing a productive and deepening interdependence. Both rural and urban communities offer to each other a wealth of recreation and cultural opportunities.

This issue brief from the NADO Research Foundation describes some ways in which regional development organizations and other regional entities are recognizing the importance of connecting rural regions and urban centers. As yet, most of these connections are incidental to other efforts rather than intentional strategies, but it is possible to see three broad approaches that show promise for regional economic development by strengthening rural-urban linkages. These are:

  • Actions to level the playing field for rural residents and businesses so that they are not unduly penalized by distance and lack of economies of scale
  • Actions intended to increase opportunities for interaction and employment
  • Actions to expand economic development

Creating Opportunity and Prosperity Through Strengthening Rural-Urban Connections contains case studies on efforts underway across the country to support rural-urban connections in the areas of broadband development, disaster resilience, transportation, and food systems.  Click here to download the issue brief (PDF).

Additional NADO Resources:

Questions?  Please contact  NADO Research Foundation Program Manager Brett Schwartz at [email protected].


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Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.

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