Case Studies on Economic Resiliency in Rural Communities

Isaac Kremer/ January 21, 2017/ conference/ 0 comments

“Case Studies on Economic Resiliency in Rural Communities,” at Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities, The Conservation Fund, Sheperdstown, West Virginia (January 2017)

This session provided real world examples of thriving rural communities and the tools and techniques they use; highlighted the keys to success of working with diverse public, private, and nonprofit partners; defined and explored new models for economic development in terms of supporting the development of entrepreneurs and job sectors that are creative and/or location neutral; presented real-world examples of creating an entrepreneur-focused community economic development and workforce development strategy especially related to rural and recreational economies, value-added products, and partnerships; and presented examples of small-scale manufacturing that provide connections to the unique sense of place and contribute to a thriving rural community. Presenters: Isaac Kremer with Abbi Peters, PA Wilds Center and Zach Drennen, Coalfield Development Corp.

The Presentation (Selected)

See representative slides from presentation in prior year, located here.

Strategy #1: Innovation – Perform placemaking interventions to improve appearance of downtown and stimulate economy through multiple small actions to determine market demand.

The Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series activated a previously vacant gravel parking lot.

The Palace was an entrepreneurship training initiative and retail space located in a saloon dating to the 1890s.

Strategy #2: Trail Town – Connect downtown and National Historical Park through a trail system.

One of the designs for a comprehensive trail system linking the downtown with the National Park, produced with support from the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Kentucky.


  • Public and private investment of $6,364,653.
  • Over 31 businesses and 189 jobs (net).
  • Developed donor database of over 4,400 names.
  • Over 10,000 hours of volunteer time = $207,015.
  • Competed and secured $615,250 in grants.
  • Repealed over 60 year prohibition of alcohol sales.
  • Dozens of people received training to expand capacity.
  • Received national media attention through numerous articles and conference presentations.

Lessons Learned

  • Make multiple small bets of $500 or less.
  • Every project is an opportunity to learn. Take the lessons as they come.
  • Fail fast and fail forward.
  • Connect all actions to an overarching strategy.
  • Celebrate all wins, no matter what the size.
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About Isaac Kremer

Isaac Kremer is a transformational leader with a track record of success revitalizing downtowns in the United States. He has written and spoken extensively. He's always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas to unlock the potential of downtown areas.

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