Indianapolis-based Thomas P. Miller & Associates is examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted rural communities across the U.S. in terms of economic and workforce development. The consulting firm says there has been a lot of attention focused on urban areas but not as much on farm country.
TMPA says it wants to not only create a national snapshot of the hardships communities have endured, but also provide a roadmap to recovery.
“We decided to launch an initiative nationwide to really look at what are those major issues that rural America is facing right now. But more importantly, what are those solutions to those major issues,” said Andrea Adkins-Hutchins, vice president of Thomas P. Miller & Associates in an interview with Inside INdiana Business.
Adkins-Hutchins says the project, called the Prosperity Through Equity assessment, covers a community’s strengths, areas of need, and local recommendations for improvement in these areas.
Rural communities typically have a less diversified economy, a higher share of workers in essential jobs, and a larger digital divide than urban communities, problems she has existed before COVID-19.
“All of the issues that America was facing, really, were just amplified by the pandemic,” said Adkins-Hutchins. “And we felt like that was also true in rural America.”
The firm says it is using both a survey and focus groups to gather input from a variety of stakeholders to learn about the top ten obstacles to economic development in rural America.
After identifying these issues, TPMA plans to host a hackathon or similar activity to explore sustainable solutions.
Adkins-Hutchins says the feedback will be shared with thought leaders and researchers to enhance their research efforts to find solutions to the issues faced by rural communities.
“Some of the issues that rural communities are facing are going to be harder to overcome than just throwing money at something. And I say that because many communities, don’t have economic development staff,” explained Adkins-Hutchins. “There are some limiting factors that even just a big tranche of money can’t necessarily help you overcome if you don’t have people to help direct that money in the right place.”
The consulting firm plans to release its initial findings this fall.
Click here to learn more about the program.
Thomas P. Miller & Associates Vice President Andrea Adkins-Hutchins explained how the findings could prove valuable to rural communities.