By Keli James, PR communications coordinator
To address these challenges, former President Bill Clinton and experts at the Clinton Global Initiative propose that the government and the private sector work together to support economic opportunities in rural communities.
“Anywhere you have people who are willing to go to work in the morning and have half good sense, I think you have to assume there are real economic opportunities there,” said Clinton during the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative America Meeting – New Horizons: Unlocking the Potential of Rural America. “You have to design almost boutique strategies to make them bloom.”
Clinton and Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture, agree that private enterprise hasn’t invested enough in rural communities, and that the government must step in to help drive economic development.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be government, as it was with rural electrification,” said Vilsack during the meeting, referring to broadband internet.
Extending high-speed internet technology to rural communities is critical for economic development because agriculture is an increasingly data-driven operation. With access to broadband internet, rural communities could also foster more home-based businesses.
Moreover, the Clinton Global Initiative acknowledges that lending practices have become more stringent. Spurred by the banking crisis of 2008, it is much harder for potential start-up businesses in rural areas, small towns and Indian reservations to obtain loans.
“We do need a different set of rules,” Clinton said of rural lending. “We’re not going to cause a national bank collapse here if something goes haywire.”