Rural Towns Are Prospering by Connecting to Nearby Urban Centers. Regional Flavor Principle #5.

by Joanne Steele on December 8, 2009


The fifth and final Regional Flavor Principle is:

Be strategic about connecting urban and rural areas in the region.

For rural tourism, this is essential. Our customers generally live in urban areas, and need incentives(marketing) to venture out into the countryside.

photo by mollypop on Flickr

photo by mollypop on Flickr

1. They desire our authentic experiences.

2. They are enriched by what we have to offer.


They need encouragement to seek out experiences outside of their familiar urban environments.

The State of Tennessee has created a whole system of urban to rural trails to encourage this migration into the countryside. Read more about their program here. How Tennessee, USA Uses Scenic Byways to Draw Urban Visitors to Its Rural Town Delights.

Columbia Falls, MT is making urban connections in a unique way. They are inviting their high school graduates to come home to Columbia Falls and bring their jobs with them. It’s working, with former residents who telecommute coming back and contributing their energy and enthusiasm to Columbia Falls’ redevelopment efforts.

The Kansas Explorer’s Club which is 3000 strong, travels all over Kansas, USA, sometimes “doing dirt” (driving on country dirt roads) to visit historic churches and see unusual cultural sites in tiny rural Kansas communities. All these little towns are doing is putting out the invitation, and providing an interpretive guide to meet the Explorers and tell the story of their town! Check out their Facebook page.

The original intent of a Regional Flavor strategy has been to create and support a diverse rural economy involving entrepreneurs of all types, and existing businesses in all rural business sectors.

Tourism is an essential tool for several reasons.

1. It brings money into the region without excessive new infrastructure requirements as visitors come, spend and then leave.

2. It provides the very best business attraction tool rural communities have. A quick check of newer businesses in almost any rural community in the United States will show that most of these owners first discovered their new towns as visitors.

3. With the increased numbers of visitors seeking authentic experiences, most rural regions only need to “clean house” a little to begin marketing themselves as a visitor destination.

A few years ago, the drive on country roads to one of Hickman County, Tennessee, USA’s old time country stores might have discouraged visitors. Today, with the increased desire for authentic experiences, it is part of the adventure for Nashville and Memphis residents!

Taken together the five Regional Flavor Principles can guide an area’s economic development efforts, support entrepreneurs, enhance a thriving rural tourism industry and sustain the kind of rural economy that will encourage young families to stay in their home communities.

Creating a Regional Flavor Strategy requires lots of work, but we rural folks are used to hard work.

I’ll keep you posted as more information comes available about programs throughout the US.

A Discovery Day training in Regional Flavor Strategies was held in Abingdon, Virginia.

Below are links to the entire series on Regional Flaver. Enjoy..

5 Principles to Lay the Groundwork for your Small Town’s Rural Regional Flavor Strategy.

How Making Locally Owned Small Businesses Successful Contributes to a Regional Flavor Strategy

Your Small Town’s Unique Assets – Regional Flavor Principle #2

When Building Your Regional Flavor Strategy, “Network Weaving” is the Craft, Your Small Town is the Loom.

3 Ways Visitors Create Strong Emotional Bonds With Small Tourism Towns. Principle #4.

1 Daryl Phillips December 8, 2009 at 7:56 pm

As usual, a great post. I just wanted to emphasize #2 reason above since business attraction is usually the #1 thing that an economic developer’s job performance is judged. Having a community attractive to tourism leaves an impression on visitors that may bring them back with more business and jobs, even years afterward. Having an attractive community helps when a business prospect comes to a community evaluating sites. And last but not least, a community that is attractive to tourists most likely is appealing to residents adding to that elusive perception of quality of life.

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