A stronger and more equitable Greater Minnesota will lift our entire state and our 2018 legislative priorities under the Minnesota Rural Equity Project reflect this wisdom. This week we announced support for a dozen promising investments and initiatives, each of which can help revitalize local rural economies and reduce social and racial disparities. Many of the priorities also directly and indirectly benefit the Twin Cities metropolitan area and Minnesota as a whole, and therefore serve as a shared vision for an urban-rural policy framework. The priorities include: child care and early childhood development, more affordable workforce housing, broadband access, specialized Career Pathways training, Local Government Aid restoration, tax policy that benefits working families, and statewide acceleration of our shift to renewable energy. “Our policy priorities are evidence-based and draw upon input from communities and stakeholders across the state,’’ Growth & Justice President Jane Leonard said in our news release. “We believe these ideas and initiatives can bring together Republicans and Democrats from all corners of Minnesota – rural and metro alike.’’ Partners in our project include the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition and the Greater Minnesota Partnership.
We are greatly encouraged in our work towards rural equity and inclusion by a new report published this week by the non-partisan National League of Cities. “Linking urban-rural areas creates economic growth” says the report, and it offers fresh new insights from across the country, guided in part by several earlier studies, including one from Minnesota. In the introduction to the new report, Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide, the authors cite Minnesota Rural Partners’ 2011 report, “Pilot Study: Estimating Rural and Urban Minnesota’s Interdependencies.” That 2011 study was initiated and organized by our very own president, Jane Leonard, when she was president of Minnesota Rural Partners. From the NLC 2018 report intro: “A 2011 study examining the interdependence between Minnesota’s urban and rural areas found that urban regions receive substantial economic benefits from improved prosperity in rural areas. Every $1 billion increase in rural manufacturing output produces a 16% increase in urban jobs, significant additional business-to-business transactions and statewide consumer spending and investment.” The NLC report also highlights the importance of broadband, education attainment, and infrastructure investments across the board. As the new study declares: “It’s time for the narrative to shift from urban vs. rural to a shared economic future.’’ We could not agree more.
“One consistent theme...is the importance of infrastructure connectivity and market access, indicating that sustainable growth hinges on the connectedness of places, not necessarily their designation as urban or rural…In all states, urban areas outpace their rural counterparts in broadband access… underscoring the importance of extending affordable broadband to rural areas…States with strong levels of educational attainment have less conspicuous educational divides between urban and rural areas. Often, rural areas are home to universities, which connect rural residents to educational opportunities and narrow the gap.” --- Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide report, National League of Cities.