After an era of marked decline, rural manufacturing is on the upswing—along with the high-quality jobs it brings to community prosperity. Manufacturing employs 3.5 million people, 14 percent of the rural workforce, and produces 15 percent of total rural earnings. Counter to common perception, manufacturing accounts for more than double agriculture’s presence in the rural economy.
The America’s Rural Opportunity series explores rural innovation and strategies that help rural families, communities, and businesses. In September, the fifth session, “Rural Grown, Local Owned Manufacturing,” showcased firms with pioneering business practices that are making state-of-the-art products and selling them worldwide.
Brad Goskowicz—the CEO of Microbiologics in St. Cloud, Minnesota, which produces 900 strains of ready-to-use microorganisms for the clinical, pharmaceutical, food, water, and educational industries—said his firm recently expanded by revitalizing a local neighborhood rather than choosing an easier site. Dana Jordan, the CEO of Cascade Rescue Company in Sandpoint, Idaho, which makes the leading rescue products used in disaster situations around the world, explained that his company hires workers at a salary above their skill level to attract workers and ensure their families have a decent standard of living. A once robust North Carolina textile industry has seen mills close and jobs vanish through decades of outsourcing —an industry that Molly Hemstreet, the founder of Opportunity Threads, and Tanya Wade, the intake administrator at Carolina Textile District, are reviving. Through a unique collaboration among a worker-owned cut-and-sew business, county economic developers, an innovation center, and local mills, Opportunity Threads is meeting a growing demand for domestic, environmentally friendly textiles.
The America’s Rural Opportunity series, organized by the Institute’s Community Strategies Group with the Rural Development Innovation Group, will continue through 2018. aspeninstitute.org/series/americas-rural-opportunity