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Rural Workforce Development

March 20, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Eleni Bickell

Executive Summary 

Rural workforce development is an approach to economic development that attempts to enhance the economic stability and prosperity of rural communities by providing a variety of tax and other fiscal incentives to businesses. In 2022, three bills (SB 675, SB 905, HB 1885) aim to create the Missouri Rural Workforce Development Act and provide an incentive for those making capital investments in a fund to be distributed to rural areas of the state. Investors would be eligible for an annual tax credit covering 15% percent of an investment in a rural fund if the fund has put at least $100 million in small communities across the country, including $30 million in Missouri. The bills require that 70% percent of investments be made in rural small businesses with 250 or fewer employees and that the principal business operations are in the state of Missouri. 

Highlights 

  • Research looking at the link between investments in infrastructure and the migration and start-up of firms and workers shows that expanding infrastructure investments has a modest impact on rural economic development.
  • The number of jobs created and retained increases with the increase in investment in infrastructure.
    • On average, 10.4 jobs are created in rural areas for each $1.7 million spent (9.6 jobs are generated in urban areas for the same dollar amount in investment).
  • Research suggests that rural wealth creation plans that use industrial investments while emphasizing the investment across several types of capital or assets (i.e., natural, educational, cultural, human, social, political, financial) are the most likely to be effective.

Limitations

  • The research on the effects of tax incentives on industrial investments and job growth is inconclusive and sometimes contradictory. 
    • Although Alabama's tax abatements for workforce development have influenced companies' decisions to locate in particular communities, the state’s natural and transportation resources were the principal factors that attracted the investors within those areas. 
    • Georgia’s Rural Fund reports that four of five of the targeted industry sectors had significant job creation and that small businesses were supported to secure financing at affordable and reasonable rates.
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