Future of Communities in America's Resurgent Heartland

Been out on the road, “sharpening my saw” as they say, doing some training.  Reminding myself of the price commuting demands on an urban lifestyle.  Loving my usual 3-block walk to work!

Between trips I participated in a Blandin Foundation webinar on The Future of Communities in America’s Resurgent Heartland, with Dr. Delore Zimmerman, Praxis Strategy Group.

Ann Treacy took notes on Twitter #mnbb09, with followup on the Blandin on Broadband blog:

In a nutshell, he spoke about the importance of creating and promoting a story for your community’s future. Drawing from past strengths is a good place to start but recognize the changes in government, manufacturing and agriculture – three sectors that have dominated past growth in rural areas. As the global populations grow so will the importance of these sectors but as you draw from the past remember to focus on infrastructure and the network that drives growth today. Best exercise – brainstorm your ideas for future growth by thinking of newspaper headlines you’d like to see in your community.

Slides are above.  Audio hear (-Ha ha, “hear” for “here”  OK, I’m kind of tired after all the driving last week).

I wrote down Delore’s 3 pillars as Agriculture, Energy and Manufacturing.  There is tremendous growth ahead worldwide, with the number of cities of 10 million population or more exploding by 2050.  This will create enormous demands for both food and fuel.  Distributed and regional energy systems offer opportunities for communities to have greater control over their input costs.  Finally, the “performance-first mindset” common in highly productive rural communities offers a real advantage in retaining creative manufacturing industries that might otherwise go off-shore.

Delore has been working on the idea of “High Performance Communities” for a while, looking at what communities that succeed do right and do well.  He’s looked at infrastructure, yes, but also the relationships between entrepreneurs and communities that enable people to succeed.  There are many different approaches and the bar is higher for rural communities.  The RIGHT approach is the one that focuses on opportunities based on the local terrain—the “Terroir” of a particular place.

My favorite quote from the slides:  “The future is already here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.” -William Gibson

Blandin Broadband Webinar Series is featuring two more webinars in advance of the Blandin Foundation’s annual conference in Duluth next month.  Bill Coleman leads a session 20 October on Broadband Best Practices and Ann takes on Social Media on 3 November.


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