From the July Issue


Do You Believe in Unicorns?

Economic development at the fringes of civilization — in this case, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic — offers a testbed for new strategies. Plus: Our latest analysis of top rural and micropolitan areas for National Career Readiness Certificates.

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Keeping It Clean

Northwest Ohio leads a charge for vehicles powered by natural gas.

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For the Rural Advantage article above, thanks to the collaboration of ACT, we tallied ACT National Career Readiness Certificates (NCRCs) in rural and micropolitan counties, an exercise we first conducted in September 2017. Which contenders gained the most?

At the state level, repeat No. 1 North Carolina grew its combined rural and micropolitan NCRCs by a robust 67%, adding 37,775 to reach a total of 94,523. Other states such as Mississippi (up 181%) and Kentucky (167%) made huge strides. The biggest gainer by tally was Wisconsin, which, even though it dropped from No. 2 to No. 3, more than tripled its 2017 total to reach 73,642 NCRCs. The most dramatic leaps percentage-wise came from Missouri (from outside the top 10 to No. 9 this year, with a 217% jump up to 34,663 NCRCs) and Louisiana (up from No. 18 to No. 10, rising by 393% to 33850 NCRCs).

At the rural county level (non-metro and non-micropolitan), Avoyelles Parish in central-eastern Louisiana added 1,331 NCRCs to reach this year’s No. 1 rank with a total of 4,146, in a parish with a total population of just over 40,000, located just southeast of Alexandria. But the biggest gainer was Monroe County, Mississippi — just north of Columbus along the Alabama state line — which added 1,420 to jump from No. 5 to No. 2 in the country at 4,102 NCRCs.

When micropolitan and rural counties are both tossed into the mix, No. 1 Robeson County, North Carolina (aka Lumberton), stayed No. 1 for a reason, adding 1,799 NCRCs (a 27% increase) to reach 8,536. Marshall County, Alabama (Albertville), leapt from No. 15 to No. 7 by adding 1,865 NCRCs to reach a total of 4,894, a 62% increase. But the biggest jump came from No. 4 Walworth County, Wisconsin, which added 2,331 NCRCs (a 64% increase) to move up from No. 7. That county is home to the Whitewater-Elkhorn micropolitan area, situated along Chicago-Milwaukee corridor along the Illinois state line, which boasts the Whitewater University Technology Park, 14 TIF districts and an Elkhorn population that has grown by 38% since the 2000 census, but is perhaps best known as the home of the Lake Geneva area (pictured), where Chicago executives have been blowing off steam since the 1870s.  — Adam Bruns

Lake Geneva photo courtesy of Visit Lake Geneva


Advanced Circular Polymers has opened a new plastics recycling plant in Somerton, Australia, in the Melbourne metro area. The $20 million investment for the new facility will result in 46 new jobs. The facility has an annual capacity of 70,000 tons of plastic and is powered by energy from Goldwind Australia’s wind farm. A $500,000 grant from Sustainability Victoria has supported the project.

Source: Conway Analytics


Japanese food manufacturer, Nissin Foods Co., has recently announced that it plans to spend over $26 million to build a new production facility in Zhuhai, China, located in southern Guangdong province, on the border with Macau. The company has experienced business growth in Hong Kong and China, resulting in the need for this additional manufacturing and packaging facility. Construction on the new facility is slated to be complete in 2021.

Source: Conway Analytics

— Compiled by Olivia Vener, Consultant, Conway Advisory



A major thrust of rural economic development is broadband penetration and access for citizens and businesses alike, a topic explored in our pages multiple times in recent years. Now a new resource is available to those wishing to track broadband improvements, thanks to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ state broadband policy explorer, which lets you learn how states are expanding access to broadband through laws. Categories in the tool include: broadband programs, competition and regulation, definitions, funding and financing, and infrastructure access. It’s just one part of the Trusts’ Broadband Research Initiative.



As Managing Editor Adam Bruns and colleagues continue to report on black community economic development progress across the Southeast for our September issue, history meets them at every corner. Bruns made this photo last week at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, where the central memorial structure consists of over 800 corten steel monuments, one for each U.S. county and state where a racial terror lynching took place. The names of more than 4,400 lynching victims are engraved on the columns. A May report from the Alabama Tourism Department credited the memorial and accompanying Legacy Museum from the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative for a 15% jump in Montgomery tourism expenditures in 2018, which played a large part in boosting visitors to the state by 1 million more than any previous year.