Regional Economic Recovery Research – Report Series

Community Perspectives on Economic Development

Spring 2021

In his State of the State address in early February, Governor Abbott highlighted the importance of greater broadband access in rural parts of Texas. The COVID pandemic, he said, had brought to light the urgency of expanded high-speed internet for the economic and physical well-being of Texans outside the major urban corridors, and he added rural broadband investment to the list of emergency items that he would like the Texas Legislature to address in its current Session. Indeed, the Texas Tribune recently highlighted the need for reforming the Texas Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes phone and internet service for a million Texans living in remote and rural areas.

Rural broadband investment, however, is one of a number of economic development priorities that rural Texans themselves say they need. Last summer, researchers at the Bureau of Business Research in the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin surveyed 7000 Texas residents of small cities and towns across the state as part of the  Regional Economic Recovery Initiative (RERR). The survey asked participants to rate their satisfaction with 18 different community “assets” ranging from broadband and K-12 education to housing affordability, healthcare, and the local cost of living. The survey also asked participants about the appeal of a set of economic development and quality-of-life improvement options for their communities and then to make trade-offs in an allocation exercise by investing hypothetical investment dollars among the various options.

The results were surprising. The findings illuminate the challenges facing those who live in rural and small-town Texas as they improve local infrastructure, retain and attract young workers, and enhance the quality of life in their communities.

Over the next few weeks, over March and April 2021, we will highlight findings from the survey on the BBR website and provide data that residents and economic development specialists in small Texas towns can use to help guide investment choices. The full report will be released in late spring 2021.

Regional Economic Recovery Research – Report Series, by theme

Theme 1 – COVID Impact to Health & Jobs

March 4, 2021

As part of the IC2 Institute’s Regional Economic Recovery Initiative, launched in March 2020 to better understand Texas communities and provide evidence-based recommendations for next steps for community planning, the Bureau of Business Research surveyed Texans from across the state about their economic development priorities. …read more.

Theme 2 – Resilience & Recovery in Rural Texas Communities

March 15, 2021

Exacerbating economic losses from the COVID-19 Pandemic, some economists estimate that Winter Storm Uri will cost the state of Texas $120 billion in lost productivity, business closures, and residential repairs. The sudden, unexpected, and preventable consequences of #Snovid echo IC2 Institute Executive Director Art Markman’s message to prioritize economic resiliency even at the cost of short-term individual profits and business efficiency. …read more.

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Theme 3 – Entrepreneurial Intention Greater in Urban than in Rural Texas

April 26, 2021

In previous themes in this series on community economic development priorities, we have examined community members’ perceptions of COVID’s impact on local economic conditions and how resilient they believe their communities to be.  Among the survey questions that we asked rural and urban Texans in the summer and fall of 2020, we included questions about their attitudes toward entrepreneurship for clues about how likely our participants might be to start or own a business. …read more.

Theme 4 – Gaps Between Satisfaction and Importance

May 28, 2021

This spring, we have been exploring community economic development priorities across rural and urban Texas, starting with COVID economic impacts, but also including perceptions of economic resilience, and in the previous installment, entrepreneurial intention. In this installment, we present survey findings from a set of questions about how residents value broad categories of community assets and what that might mean for prioritizing community investment. This is especially important now that the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan includes hundreds of billions of dollars in targeted investment in many of the community asset ideas we included in the survey, like broadband, infrastructure, and healthcare, to name just a few……read more.

Theme 5 – Community’s Priorities Among Economic, Quality of Life Project Ideas

June 8, 2021

In our last theme, we began to explore how communities might think about economic development ideas for their community by looking at the gaps between satisfaction with what is available to the community for a series of assets and the importance of those assets to members of the community.  In this installment of our series, we examine the priorities for and the possible trade-offs that communities often have to make between economic development and quality-of-life-enhancing investments…read more.

We encourage your feedback and would like to hear from you. Email BBR Director, Dr. Bruce Kellison, with questions about the survey, the findings, or the analysis presented here.

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