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Building Strong Regional Foundations for Rural-Urban Growth Presented at the Business Retention and Expansion International Conference Regina, Saskatchewan June 7, 2007 ___________ Mark Partridge Swank Professor in Rural-Urban Policy The Ohio State University Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy

Outline: Why are we here?: 

Outline: Why are we here? Rural Myths—Today’s rural North America is much more diverse than 1950. Government policies are based on the myth Other bad policies include chasing fads or good intentions combined with wishful thinking Good policy is building a broad-based foundation for the entire region. Rural-Urban interdependence In 1950, communities detached from their neighbors In 21st Century—communities are linked in a web of inter-relationships Should rural communities compete or cooperate? Successful cooperation builds strength Leverage growth in an entire region—i.e. town and country Build supporting institutions: too many “win-wins” are left on the table. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy

Rural Myths: Back to the Future The 1950s Rural Economy: 

Rural Myths: Back to the Future The 1950s Rural Economy The myth is that rural areas are solely natural resource based. This is a common media story. Too often, federal and state/provincial policy is aimed at making this imaginary place “healthy” with policies mostly aimed at supporting resource based sectors. The reality is that there are 3 rural Americas: Amenity/recreation rich near mountains, lakes, oceans Ex: In the last 40 years, the transformation of N. MN to an amenity driven economy is remarkable: was mining, timber, farming. Less of a pattern in Canada, though increasing this decade Metro adjacent with commuting & wrestling with sprawl, growth Remote Rural that is dependent on natural resource sectors. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy


1990-2000 Plains States Engines of Growth

Farm HH’s rely on other sources: 

Farm HH’s rely on other sources 89% of U.S. farm household income is from off-farm sources 68% of U.S. farm households have one or both spouses working off farm source: U.S.D.A., 2006, described in the notes below 87% of Canadian farm household income is from off-farm sources Source: AAFC Canada Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy


Lessons! The 1950s Rural North America no longer exists. Today, rural is more dynamic and diverse Communities are more tightly integrated as regions Calls for a policy that recognizes regional interdependence Rural vitality is far more complex than farm policy. Note the contradiction, farm competitiveness requires producing more food with fewer workers—not the same as community prosperity! Farm/food policy is sub-optimal when linked to rural revitalization. Agriculture policy should focus on food supply and safety. Agriculture’s urban influence is under-rated. Agriculture is too important to be diverted to local econ dev.

Measuring Success in North America: 

Measuring Success in North America Success is long-run population growth Combines good economy & quality of life People vote with their feet Not subjective or elitist such as rankings in (say) the Economist Look North-South to see real patterns Shows the high degree of regional connectiveness Looking E-W across the continent is simplistic Great Plains/Prairies population loss Alberta and BC are in the fast growing Mountain West Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy


1990/91-2006 North American Population Growth

Basic Patterns: 

Basic Patterns Cities are engines of growth, especially in Canada North American rural development Critical mass & threshold effects Growth poles or growth clusters Not everyone in small community/neighborhood commutes in their growth cluster, enough to stabilize their population and build critical mass This North American pattern underlies why regions should work together. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy

Communities should band together: 

Communities should band together Growth doesn’t end at city border! Growth spreads out for hundreds of kms, though the growth effects decrease with greater distance Closer regional ties are an opportunity that should be taken in Canada and U.S. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy


1996-2001 Population in Manitoba and Saskatchewan at the CCS level: With 100 km rings around CAs and CMAs Source: Statistics Canada—1996 CCS Boundaries


2001-2006 Population in Manitoba and Saskatchewan at the CCS level: With 100 km rings around CAs and CMAs Source: Statistics Canada—2006 CCS Boundaries

Interdependence at the Rural-Urban Fringe: 

Interdependence at the Rural-Urban Fringe Regional planning takes pressure off the fringe Regional transport is good, but avoid U.S. “roads at all costs”. Avoid sprawl and donut development that also puts pressure on rural areas Example Columbus, OH (like many U.S. cities). Weak cooperation and planning led to unintended consequences even with “great” roads. Can lead to a high-service cost development.


Employment and Income Pre-1964 Outerbelt Construction—Columbus, OH Jobs by Traffic Analysis Zone


Employment and Income 2000 Outerbelt Construction—Columbus, OH Jobs by Traffic Analysis Zone

Commuting shows range of rural-urban interdependence: 

Commuting shows range of rural-urban interdependence Commuting zones extend far outside of urban area—show growth clusters that benefit the entire region. If someone can commute, they likely shop, utilize health care, participate in service organizations, etc. Such regions share common interests. Live & work & shop & play in broad regions in a web of interdependencies—not like the 1950s Common interests imply that communities should work together and exploit the gain in critical mass.


Percent of Local Labour Force Commuting to Winnipeg CMA—CCS Level Data Source: See notes to the slide


Percent of Local Labour Force Commuting to Brandon CA—CCS Level Data Source: See notes to the slide


Moral Regions can link-up to attain critical mass. Regional growth clusters that can conduct econ development and provide gov’t services France recently cut sub-national gov’ts by ¾ to enhance planning and regional development efficiencies. If a country that is so adverse to change can do it, so can we. Source, Economist, “Failure at the Top.” A Special Report on Cities. May 5, 2007, pgs 12-14. Need to ensure all rural/urban communities participate in urban led growth and that rural stakeholders have a voice in this process. This includes the exurbs to more distant rural communities Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy

How can we cooperate?: 

How can we cooperate? This can be a formal consolidation of gov’ts Need a consensus! Borders can exclude people or include people. Why rely on borders drawn for the needs of the 19th century Other regional needs for ‘neighbors’ & common interests: Should reflect broad regional needs Transport people/access to urban services and amenities Environment/Land use Economic development Education/health Quality of life initiatives Increased political clout in state/provincial capitals or in Ottawa or Washington. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy


Need to build regional identity. Despite the interdependence of communities, too many think as if they are an island. My “favorite” is how nearby towns compete for each other’s business—destroying everyone’s tax base. Nongovernmental approaches Chambers of Commerce, service organizations Cooperatives and other community organizations Overlay regional gov’t on top of municipalities Regional development authorities Transportation—critical to build regional clusters But these regional govt’s need real tools. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy

What is needed for success?: 

What is needed for success? Check petty jealousies at the door Maybe better to think of towns as “neighborhoods” rather than municipalities in a living web of connected regional neighborhoods. (Mayor Ayling of Grande Prairie, AB) Define region: commuting sheds is a good start. Communities need to build trust Realize everyone benefits, though not always equally Build supporting infrastructure: Soft: governance and grassroots “buy-in” and cooperation. Hard: such as roads

More Community/Regional tools for Success: 

More Community/Regional tools for Success Most states and especially provinces should devolve authority—A positive case is Quebec Greater ability to zone/plan near community-region boundary E.g., Saskatchewan’s towns and cities have little influence on their future foot print. (Say) Minnesota does this better Leads to sprawl and expensive development. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy

Local Devolution—continued : 

Local Devolution—continued More tax tools, especially at the regional level Regional fuel/use taxes for transportation Sales taxes (say 1% regional levy) Regional approaches stop the “city” from keeping all of the gains while the rural/exurb communities lose. Currently, (say) Regina keeps all of its tax revenues from nearby shoppers. Regional approaches would disperse some of this back to the countryside through needed regional projects. Weakness of Conference Board of Canada (Globe and Mail) approach is that it is not ‘win-win’.

Examples of Cooperation: 

Examples of Cooperation Ft. McMurray/Wood Buffalo (growing pains). Action Southwest centered around Swift Current, Saskatchewan is proactive. Outlook, SK is a good example of 1st Nations participating in a regional plan. 1 hour away, Saskatoon reflects an opportunity This is an opportunity in this larger region. Gander, NFLD and surrounding villages Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy


NW Ohio: 3 counties recently supported Van Wert County’s effort to land a Honda plant The Darby River accord brought together 10 OH municipalities to protect an environ. treasure. Some people claim the MN Arrowhead region does a good job of cooperating—some truth in that. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy


Summary Clinging to the rural myth of the 1950s is not helpful Policy should refocus, not perpetuate a myth. Growth in much of rural North America depends on linking to urban areas Groups of communities can band to form viable regions with the critical mass to be growth clusters and leverage their growth for a sustainable future. The status quo of going it alone will mean the death of far too many rural communities in the Great Plains/Prairies, Atlantic Canada, the Deep South, and Central Appalachia. Urban areas can benefit from more cooperation between urban center, suburbs, and exurban towns Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy

Thank you: 

Thank you Presentation will be posted at The Ohio State University, AED Economics, Swank Program website: (under presentations) For commuting maps for all urban areas of Canada: Canada Rural Economy Research Lab (CRERL) Mapping the Rural Urban Interface Project. Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy

Appendix Slides : 

Appendix Slides

For those who like statistics: 

For those who like statistics Rural Canada avg: every 1% greater 1991 Other Primary Emp share implied -0.30% less population growth in 1990s Source Statistics Canada & Partridge, M.D.; R. Bollman; M.R. Olfert; and A. Alasia. 2005. “Riding the Wave of Urban Growth in the Countryside: Spread, Backwash, or Stagnation.” University of Saskatchewan, Canada Rural Economy Research Lab Working Paper. Available at [forthcoming Land Economics]

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