Rural vs. Urban Ohio: Similar Challenges, Unique Strengths

click to enlarge Rural vs. Urban Ohio: Similar Challenges, Unique Strengths
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Research has shown that, since the end of the Great Recession, rural areas in Ohio and other states haven't shared in the same economic recovery as metropolitan areas. But a new report suggests rural America has unique assets that shouldn't be overlooked.

Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress Olugbenga Ajilore said rural communities have fallen behind cities in terms of jobs, labor force participation and population. But while these areas share similar challenges, he said they each have unique strengths.

"There's no 'one size fits all' solution for rural America," Ajilore said. "A lot of it depends on what part of rural America that you're talking about, and focusing on the assets within those communities. How do we take advantage of those assets to really help those communities flourish?"

Ajilore explained some rural areas have natural amenities and landscapes that can be used to create or expand outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities. Increasing demand for specialty and luxury goods gives rural manufacturers a chance to adapt their practices to meet global market needs. And creating local and regional food hubs in rural areas helps farmers find alternative ways to market their products.

About 1 in 5 Ohioans lives in a rural setting. Much like the rest of small-town America, Ajilore said, these Ohio communities are quite diverse. At the same time, he noted, there is also a cohesiveness.

"One of the things I like about Ohio is that, while each part was different, there was still that kind of cohesive 'Ohionesss' about the area," he said. "But there's things that we can take from different parts of the state, because it's so diverse, and make it a stronger economy and a nicer place to live."

The report said rural communities that have fared better since the end of the recession are more populous than most rural counties, and have seen employment rebound. Ajilore said it's important to share the success stories and consider how they can translate to other rural areas.

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