Vibrant Rural Communities Case Studies Series

The NADO Research Foundation’s Vibrant Rural Communities case studies series highlights how rural regions and small towns across the country are growing local and regional economies and creating stronger communities. This series shows how small towns can leverage a wide range of tools and approaches to build on their assets, protect their resources, and make strategic investments that offer long-term benefits for residents and local businesses.  These featured communities have embraced a variety of innovative economic development strategies including downtown redevelopment, historic preservation, streetscape improvements, land conservation, and tourism.  Many of these small towns utilized a mix of state, federal, and private funding sources to support these local projects.  

The Baca Building (right) and Estella’s Café (middle) are local landmarks on Bridge Street in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Families and individuals have been critical in supporting the city’s historic preservation efforts.

It has often been said that “If you’ve seen one rural town, you’ve seen one rural town.”  This observation is certainly true as each community has its own geography, history, natural resources, climate, and demographics.  However, the unique nature of each town should not serve as a barrier for sharing success stories and best practices because communities – particularly small towns – can learn much from each other about building partnerships, seeking innovative funding opportunities, and encouraging community participation in economic development projects.

While not every small town will have the same local assets and advantages described in these case studies, every community does have the opportunity to look at itself, bring residents and elected officials together, and set a vision for how to take advantage of local assets in whatever form they take.  It is the goal of these case studies  to provide a snapshot of a few communities that have succeeded in beginning to make those visions a reality.  Click here for an overview of the case studies

Featured Case Studies:

A citizen-supported restaurant and hotel tax in Greenville, Kentucky established a Tourism Commission which has financed downtown façade improvements as well as free festivals and concerts, including the popular summer music series, “Saturdays on the Square.” (Photo Courtesy of Greenville photographer Amy Hourigan)

Contact Brett Schwartz, Program Manager, at [email protected] or 202.624.7736 with any inquiries.


These case studies were researched and written by NADO Research Foundation Fellows Parrish Bergquist and Brett Schwartz. NADO Associate Director Kathy Nothstine provided editorial review and guidance. This project is based in part upon work supported by the Federal Highway Administration under Agreement No. DTFH61-10-C-00047 and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under Agreement No.  DCSGP0003-11. 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 or the NADO Research Foundation.


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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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