February 15, 2008

Workshop outlines rural Indiana improvement program

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Rural America is lagging behind the nation's urban areas in household income and education, and improvements in both are necessary if rural communities are to remain viable places to live, said Sam Cordes, program leader for Purdue University Extension Economic and Community Development.

"Median household income in rural America is less than 80 percent of what it is in urban America," Cordes said. "And rural America has a huge education deficit, which is a problem in a knowledge-based, innovation-type economy. About 29 percent of urban residents over the age of 25 have a college degree. That is nearly twice the percentage found among rural residents."

Cordes will discuss what those numbers mean and how Indiana's rural areas stack up during a RISE 2020 workshop. The workshop, which outlines a program designed to improve rural life in Indiana, takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 4 at the Purdue Extension Tipton County office, located at 1200 S. Main St., Tipton.

The workshop is free, but space is limited. For advance registration, contact Angi Thomas at the Purdue Center for Regional Development at (765) 496-2090, toll-free at (877) 882-7273 or by e-mail at adthomas@purdue.edu.

RISE 2020 - Rural Indiana Strategy for Excellence 2020 - is a 15-year initiative for enhancing the state's rural communities through innovation and entrepreneurship, regional cooperation, youth engagement, and civic leadership. Purdue Extension and the Indiana Rural Development Council Inc. (IRDC) are program collaborators and workshop sponsors. The IRDC is the organizational home of RISE 2020.

There are many reasons why an income gap exists between rural and urban residents, Cordes said.

"Part of it is the difference in the economic structure," he said. "The employment opportunities in rural areas are, in general, not as robust as they are in urban areas. Higher income jobs are more likely to be in the urban areas.

"The lower educational attainment level of people in rural areas goes hand in hand with the economic factor. Education is highly tied to earnings potential."

Although Indiana has experienced urban growth in recent years, 38 percent of the state's 6.4 million residents live in unincorporated rural areas. Another 12 percent live in incorporated towns with populations of less than 10,000.

"A very small number of rural Americans are farmers," Cordes said. "Not a single county in Indiana is categorized as 'farm dependent' by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most of the earning and income of rural Hoosiers comes from nonfarm sources, including employment in manufacturing and other industries and service sectors."

While Cordes offers rural trends and analysis, other RISE 2020 workshop speakers will cover related topics. Walt Sell, Purdue Extension educator in LaPorte County, will discuss RISE 2020 efforts in his county. Phil Anderson, IRDC executive director, will address how RISE 2020 enhances rural development and how it can be used to mobilize rural residents.

The workshop concludes with Cordes and Anderson leading participants through RISE 2020 community resources and answering questions.

For more information about the Purdue Center for Regional Development visit http://www.purdue.edu/dp/pcrd. Additional information about the IRDC is available at http://www.ruralindiana.org/.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Sources: Sam Cordes, (765) 494-7273, smcordes@purdue.edu

Phil Anderson, (317) 275-2245, panderson@ruralindiana.org

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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