Understanding how economies function in rural communities supports their long-term growth according to Dr. Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research (BBR) and W.W. Marshall associate professor of economics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business. Thompson’s research of rural economies at the BBR paved the way for his recent appointment as an inaugural Faculty Fellow of the Rural Futures Institute (RFI). Fifteen faculty researchers from Nebraska and other institutions join 10 Community Innovation Fellows, as part of an RFI initiative to think strategically about issues facing rural communities.
“I’ve written many papers that compare and contrast factors influencing growth in metropolitan and micropolitan areas, so that’s an important fit for this group,” said Thompson. “Micropolitan areas such as North Platte, Scottsbluff, Fremont and Columbus are often centers of growth in rural America, particularly in the Midwest. We look at unique economic factors in these micropolitan areas to see how these indicators influence growth.”
BBR rural studies range from examining influences of highways, irrigation policies, agricultural practices and even tourism opportunities Nebraska receives from events like the great crane migration. Thompson emphasized his selection as a fellow demonstrates the key role College of Business researchers plays in understanding rural communities and ultimately, influencing economic growth around the globe.
“The RFI has a national and international mission. They are a leading voice in rural economic development. While our project uses the example of Nebraska micropolitan areas, it’s meant to create approaches and knowledge to be applied across the United States and throughout the world,” he said.
Thompson believes the Faculty Fellows bring a diverse breadth of expertise important to solving modern problems in rural America. Along with the Community Innovation Fellows, who have on-the-ground experience in rural development, he sees the combination of the two groups as unique.
“The Faculty Fellows are a multi-disciplinary group of educators. We have expertise in health care, social sciences and the humanities. Our Community Innovation Fellows have experience accomplishing leading innovative rural development. The two groups mesh well to develop practical solutions for rural communities,” said Thompson.
Nemaha County Hospital CEO Marty Fattig is one of the Community Innovation Fellows. He sees the team approach of bringing together educators and practitioners as vital to strengthening rural communities.
“We need to find some way to breathe new life into rural communities,” said Fattig. “The RFI is approaching rural economics in a totally different way. I’m proud to be a part of that.”
To learn more and view video introductions of each fellow, visit: http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/fellows