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Economic Development District

In 1996, an economic analysis was performed for Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties - the area encompassed by the Columbia-Pacific Resource Conservation and Development District. An important outcome of that study was the creation of an Economic Development District (EDD) encompassing these four counties.

EDDs are federally sanctioned organizations created to reduce unemployment and under-employment, and increase income in areas of economic distress. The main component for accomplishing this function is the creation of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Economic Development Districts are established because no other organizations within their region have the capacity and access to resources to create regional economic development plans that include and benefit each community in the district.

Because the basic economic structures found in rural communities differ significantly from those of urban areas, we find that successful economic development strategies are very different as well. Due to infrastructure availability, well established land use regulations and close knit business relationships, as well as close proximity to one another, urban businesses tend to form a synergism that is self perpetuating and naturally attracts other businesses. The business development atmosphere in rural areas is quite different, however. There, we commonly find viable businesses that would not have survived beyond conception in an urban environment. Typically, rural businesses are born of ideas that are unconstrained by urban considerations.

Rural businesses commonly have little, or no, dependence on sewers, municipal water systems, public transportation, freeways or close proximity to other businesses. Nor do they need industrial centers close at hand. In fact, rural businesses commonly require freedom from community requirements that dictate building type, location, outside appearance and many other typically urban considerations. Rural businesses are frequently smaller in size and more independent.

The most common opportunities for economic development in rural areas are in local business growth rather than in-migration or recruitment of new businesses. Some large firms do locate to rural areas because of a particular fit with a rural situation, but relocation of well established businesses to rural areas is not the norm.

In fact, the trend is quite the opposite where we find more and more established businesses being motivated to move from rural to urban areas in order to take advantage of infrastructure not available in the country. That trend of economic base movement toward urbanized areas is exacerbating the already high unemployment rates in rural areas. Out-migration of rural businesses also adds significantly to urban traffic congestion as rural residents find it necessary to commute to jobs that have moved to the city. Reversal of the trend would not only help ease traffic congestion, but add to many desirable side benefits available to people who work close to their schools and homes.

Where alternative solutions to urban infrastructure requirements can be found, it will help preserve the economic bases of rural areas and also promote rural economic growth and development.

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