Rural Development:

Rural America Faces Many Challenges

RCED-93-35: Published: Nov 20, 1992. Publicly Released: Dec 9, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO presented the views expressed by participants, including local and regional leaders, financial experts, members of nonprofit associations, and local, state, and federal government representatives, in a symposium convened to identify the challenges that rural America faces in dealing with economic realities.

GAO noted that the symposium participants discussed: (1) how such characteristics as remoteness, low population density, and dependence on a particular industry make it difficult for many rural areas to remain viable under current and projected economic conditions; (2) how rural areas need to develop new approaches for revitalizing local and regional economies; (3) the importance of education, the environment, infrastructure, and telecommunications to rural areas' revitalization approaches; (4) how federal policy and programs fail to address rural areas' problems in coordinating expertise and resources to meet federal program requirements, fail to distinguish among communities of different population densities, and focus on process rather than effectiveness; and (5) how the federal government's approach to rural problems must build on the creative solutions and resources that rural areas can provide and recognize the need for a variety of approaches. GAO believes that the federal government: (1) remains focused on critical urban concerns, and it has not addressed rural area problems with a coherent, responsive federal policy; and (2) should acknowledge the diversity of rural America and the importance of enabling rural communities to develop their own revitalization strategies.

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