Growing Local Economies: increasing ‘local’ awareness

 Across the nation, communities are adopting new strategies for economic development that focus on the resources in their own backyards.  They are trying to build economic prosperity by developing an entrepreneurial culture that can create local businesses and industries that keep money circulation locally- a culture that will provide opportunities for young people and that will honor the community’s heritage.  

Elliott, Estill, and Owsley Counties have been a part of this growing movement by participating in the University of Kentucky’s Appalachian Center’s Growing Local Economies (GLE) Initiative.  GLE looks at the economy as a whole--where money and resources flow in and out of a community --and works to create conditions that build local prosperity.

Under local leadership each community engaged in the GLE project created a team of local volunteers that was curious about finding viable alternatives to their current situations and building prosperity for future generations.  They attended multiple workshops to learn more about this new approach.  Specifically, the workshops helped the communities discover their own local economies by gathering data from residents about the community’s assets and resources.      

A milestone in this project was the creation of individual reports for each county that showcases the initiative and distills the sometimes confusing data.  The GLE reports are very data rich.  They contain a census profile, framework of the local economies, a very detailed economic leakage analysis and an entire section devoted to an assessment of the communities’ asset.  The asset assessment was carried out by the local teams as they interviewed and got to know their local businesses, their physical resources (both natural and built), and the own communities residents through a personal skills checklist. 

Now that the communities have completed this initial phase of the GLE process, each has taken that knowledge and continued the work.  With gained insight about their own local economies each team has been able to identify new strategies to increase economic prosperity and promote their local business community.

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