Researchers examine Appalachian counties economic growth

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Appalachian communities that have experienced economic growth since the Great Recession share a number of traits, researchers on the behalf of the Appalachian Regional Commission discovered.

The researchers examined 420 Appalachian-region counties through the lens of 35 individual variables believed to be associated with economic resilience. These variables include the number of resident college graduates, natural amenities and broadband availability.

As a result of further analysis and field interviews, the report identified seven common strategies adopted by the counties with the highest resilience scores. The strategies included investing in education, technology, infrastructure and broadband; long-term community engagement; growing youth engagement and next-generation leadership; identifying and growing community and regional assets; building networks and fostering collaboration; moving multiple sectors forward for economic development and growing value chains; and cultivating entrepreneurs and developing resources for business startups.

“Economically resilient communities, such as Pennsylvania’s McKean County, can teach us about strategies for promoting resilience elsewhere in the region,” said Stephan J. Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. “By identifying the resilience-promoting factors these communities share, our findings will help other communities select strategies and policies to enhance their own future economic prospects.”

Researchers included the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development at Penn State and West Virginia University.