Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Thursday, December 28, 2006

#4 Reason Rural Community Development is Hard to Do...

Change Is Not Comfortable

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

More detail on another of Michael Holton's ten reasons rural development is difficult. This is the narrative portion about the fourth reason rural community development is hard to do (Center for Rural Affairs newsletter)... I skipped the third reason because we have been talking about gate-keeper thinking on all three of the posts so far (and can continue that dicussion thread here as well)... John

Like the gate keeper mentality, change is also a barrier to community development. Comfort levels and routine are easier to understand for most community members. Large-scale change is uncomfortable and often hard work.

When you are dealing with buildings, you may have destruction and construction going on all around the community that disrupts routine. When you are dealing with people and politics, elections bring new leadership, but they also may bring change to the community.

New business brings competition which communities may view as healthy, but to existing business that must now compete for the shrinking rural dollar, it is not. Communities are made up of people first and structures second. Change must be addressed in those terms.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    All very good points... However, even though local businesses often view competition as a bad thing, that is not, most often the case. In rural communities, business competition is a most often a good thing (although there is a point of diminishing returns, undoubtedly). But, if you want to see the gate-keepers come out in droves, propose a project that will create some competition for an existing local business...

  • At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't know what size of community you are talking about, but a lot of rural communities are two small to support competing businesses in the same town - competition is not a good thing for businesses in these communities

  • At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey! What happened to reason #3?

  • At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mr. Crabtree pointed out that we have been talking about #3 all along, perhaps he would be willing to post it anyway.

  • At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not an economist (thank God) so I'm sure there is ecnomics jargon that covers this, but the postitive quality of competition that I was referring to earlier was not just community oriented, but, in a microeconomics context, for individual businesses as well. Most businesses, especially those in rural communities, serve a trade area that extends beyond the immediate community or neighborhood. Location of similar businesses can and often does increase traffic for both businesses - people are more likely to travel to a destination where they have choices as a consumer. Car lots, fast food restuarants, furniture stores, etc. often locate close to other similar, even competing businesses. That makes the area, or community, a more likely desitnation for people to travel to. Malls are an example of this concept - Younkers and one end, JC Penney at the other, competing, but benefiting from the fact that people know that if they cannot find what they need at one store they can go to the other. Rural communities are even more likely to be a distance from many of their customers, if those customers have a choice, more of them will travel to that location. Therefore, competition can benefit local businesses in many cases.

  • At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Last night, someone asked us all to bring forward ideas for what rural communties can do, things they can actually act on.

    I saw this today, and I thought, more communities should do this.

    Business Symposium January 16, 2007

    Barber County Development Inc. will be hosting a business symposium on Tuesday, January 16th from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. at the Kiowa Community Building located at 119 South 5th Street, Kiowa, Kansas.

    There will be guest speakers from different state and local government programs to discuss incentives which could be of potential benefit to existing and start-up local businesses. This symposium will have something for everyone. Listed are just some of the topics to be covered:
    - Kansas New Machinery and Equipment Exemption
    - Property Tax Exemptions
    - Barber County Micro Loan Program
    - Community Development Block Grant Program
    - Kansas Enterprise Zone Act
    - High Performance Incentive Program
    - The Comanche Pool and the Rangeland Management Initia
    All members of the business community are invited to attend this event.

    If you think you can attend, please register here or at 620.930.3988 so food arrangements can be prepared.

    Barber County Development, Inc.
    215 S Iliff (Hwy 281)
    P.O. Box #4
    Medicine Lodge, KS 67104_0004

  • At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    that's a great idea - in Barber County Kasas I mean
    also, I agree, two competing businesses in the same town can often help bring even more customers to town, I have seen it work many times

  • At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with one of the previous commentors, I'd like to see the third reason, even if we have discussed it.

  • At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Rural McCook said…

    With regard to competition, dust off a copy of "Up Against the Wal-Marts." Take note of former President Eisenhower's quote on page one, which rings pretty true to me, i.e. "What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight---it's the size of the fight in the dog."

  • At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm sure no one thought anything of it, but i had to comment again, about my earlier comment...

    I said that the Business Symposium in Barber County Kansas is a great idea, and it is a great idea. The way I wrote that comment, one might think that i was saying it was a great idea, "for Barber County" but not elsewhere. That was not my intention, I really do think it is a great idea. OK, that's my confession and apology...

    Great Idea Barber County!

  • At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Now that I have confessed and atoned, here is another good idea:

    Grant County, Kansas - County Economic Development Director Gene Pflughoft has started
    "Entrepreneurship clubs" in many small communities and they are helping teach entrepreneurial skills and assiting individuals in starting a small business.

    Gene, and Grant County Economic Development focus on rural entrepreneurship on farms, ranches and rural main streets. They have assisted scores of value added ventures in addition to rural small business development.

    For more information, contact -
    Gene Pflughoft, Director,
    Grant County Economic Development
    620-424-2437 (fax)

  • At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Another good idea is the Center's REAP program - just check out

    And the Center for Rural Affairs website has a lot of other good ideas too.

  • At 11:08 PM, Blogger Dougherty Iowa said…

    a question for rural mccook, who is the author of "Up Against the Wal-Marts"

  • At 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just looked it up for my own curiosity.
    "Up against the Walmarts: How your Business can Prosper in the Shadow of the Retail Giants" is written by Don Taylor/ Jeanne Smalling Archer

  • At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Rural McCook said…

    Yes anonymous, you are correct on "Up Against the Wal-Marts" authors. Another 'oldie but still a goodie' (I think) is "Japanese Quality Circles & Productivity" by Joel E. Ross and William C. Ross. "Up Against the Wal-Marts" discusses 'kaizen', or continuing improvement involving everyone. "Quality Circles..." provides some background into the irony of Americans teaching the Japanese these concepts in the early '50s. (And now look where we're at today in the US!) A statement at this book's introduction by a Japanese manager states that quality circles "are based on the idea that everyone would like to use his brain in addition to his labor." - Rural McCook, NE.

  • At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't know about Japanese management techniques, but I like the concept of "use (our) brains in addition to (our) labor..."

    Maybe if we thought about it that way, and lived that way, in rural communities we would get to the point where we value ourselves enough to stop thinking that all rural people can expect are low wages and declining economic opportunity.

  • At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Rural McCook said…

    Just a clarification...U.S. management consultants taught the Japanese these concepts in the early '50s. The concepts were then applied in Japan with results. We, many years later borrowed back what we initially taught, but apparently were not applying. -Rural McCook, NE.


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