Reimagining the Rural West Initiative Special Report delivers ideas to re-energize communities

LISTEN: In the ninth installment of WGA's Out West podcast, WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury spoke with Senior Policy Advisor Lauren DeNinno, who led WGA’s work on the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative, to address the origins of Gov. Doug Burgum’s policy effort. Out West is available on Podbean, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

As the population of the West concentrates in metropolitan areas, rural communities face increasing challenges to provide the services, infrastructure and opportunities needed to thrive. At the same time, opportunity abounds for rural areas to respond to global economic trends and technological innovation.

How do we re-energize rural communities and help them tap into an increasingly technological world? That was the question WGA Chair and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum sought to answer when he launched the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative in July 2019. The Initiative has since examined challenges and highlighted opportunities in rural economic development, infrastructure and quality of life organized around three major pillars:

Opportunity: Creating an environment in which everyone has the chance to prosper, whether as a first-time entrepreneur, seasoned business owner, recent graduate starting a career or a midcareer worker looking to learn new skills.

Connectivity: Ensuring that rural communities are connected by high-speed internet and safe efficient transportation networks, so that people in the rural West can plug into the global economy and take advantage of cutting-edge technology.

Community: Supporting community-led efforts to solve local challenges and building smart, healthy, vibrant communities.

The Initiative sought answers through several avenues, including regional workshops that attracted leading experts on rural development. WGA also developed a series of webinars to further explore ideas that arose from the workshops. And when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, WGA launched a dedicated webinar series to explore what it meant for the communities at the heart of the Initiative’s work.

The Special Report on the Initiative shares more than a dozen policy recommendations to support vibrant rural communities in the West. Highlights include:

  • Change the way we do economic development to focus on attracting workforce and building community assets that improve quality of life.
  • Develop policy and financial solutions that can bring broadband access to all rural communities, enabling them to take advantage of remote work opportunities, distance learning and telehealth, among other things.
  • Strengthen local leadership with the capacity to develop a shared vision for the future along with their community, and then leverage local resources to achieve it.

The report also includes additional details about the workshops, webinars, participants, and podcast series dedicated to the Initiative.

Read, download Special Report

Read, download the Appendix of the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative

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