The interests served by rural economic development projects are determined by those who sponsor, lead, and participate in them. Unfortunately, many small rural communities lack the organizational resources or skills to pursue even the most basic economic assessment and planning projects. People with disabilities and the programs that provide disability services represent an untapped resource for such community projects and may also benefit from active participation.
The Citizen Led Economic Development project was implemented in two rural communities – one in eastern Utah and another in northeastern Vermont. As part of the project, leaders with disabilities conduct an economic assessment process using A Guidebook for Citizen Involvement to Create and Expand Businesses in Rural Communities that leads to the identification of multiple import-substitution and value-added business opportunities.
A shining outcome of the project was the creation of the South Eastern Utah Small Business Investment Fund (SEUSBIF) – a coalition of business development stakeholders that secured an $865,000 grant to support low-income entrepreneurs. Between the years 2000 and 2003, SEUSBIF funds were used to develop 79 small businesses that created 192 jobs. In 2006, the Office of the Legislative Auditor General released an independent analysis to the legislature about the SEUSBIF program, which concluded “…the economic benefits provided to these rural communities as a result of SEUSBIF exceeded program costs” (Office of Utah Legislative Auditor General, 2006, p. 2.).
- Project dates: 2003-2008
- Funded by: National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research Grant No. H133B030501
- Principal staff: Tom Seekins, Ph.D., Nancy Arnold, Ph.D., Catherine Ipsen, Ph.D.
- Related projects: