“Reviving Rural Tennessee” provides suggestions to help Tennessee’s Rural Communities


November 13, 2019 1:07PM

The Beacon Center has just released a brand new package of policy solutions focused on helping rural communities throughout the state of Tennessee. This report highlights what true economic development in these areas looks like instead of just increasing corporate welfare.

Below are some of the key takeaways. You can read the full report here

– While rural areas in the state are falling behind urban areas, the biggest finding is that West Tennessee rural areas are truly suffering. Overall, rural West Tennessee has experienced lower income growth and population growth compared to the rest of the state. 

– Instead of focusing on incentivizing companies to move to rural areas through costly corporate welfare deals, rural leaders should focus on improving educational opportunities to incentivize people to return to rural areas. According to surveys, the perceived lack of educational options in rural areas is the second most influential factor preventing parents and young families from returning to rural areas, the demographic most likely to move to rural areas. 

– Having the government ensure access to broadband would be an expensive undertaking, with estimates ranging from $1.1 to $1.7 billion. While broadband is important for these areas, this report explores ways to provide access to broadband without spending over $1 billion of taxpayer money.

– Entrepreneurship is trailing in rural areas, depriving these areas of opportunities for economic growth and revitalization. Since 2010, the growth of proprietors and entrepreneurs in rural areas has been roughly one third the level of the state’s urban areas. There are a number of solutions in the report that addresses the lack of entrepreneurship in these areas.

– Recent reforms and education on opioids and the opioid crisis are beginning to show positive results. Since 2010, 80 of the state’s 95 counties have seen a decrease in opioid prescription rates. 

Beacon Policy Director and author of the report Ron Shultis stated, “As rural communities in Tennessee continue to fall behind, we knew it was important to come up with policy solutions to revitalize these communities. While there is no one silver bullet to improve opportunities in rural communities, this package of policy solutions is a great start to making rural communities stronger and more competitive.”