Sustainable Local Economy and Community Development

Power of Extension Column
By: Tahnea Locklear,
Extension Community and Rural Development Agent,
N.C. Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center

As Extension Community and Rural Development Agent with Robeson County, my duties cover Tourism, Local Foods, and Sustainable Local Economy.  In two previous articles I have described tourism and local foods and now I will explain the terms and concepts related to Sustainable Local Economy and Community Development and how they apply to my position.

To be sustainable means something has the ability to be maintained or continued as it is currently operating for long into the future; in other words, to be able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.  For local government and organizations striving to achieve sustainability, all decision-making must consider three factors equally: social, economic, and environmental.  Socially sustainable policies recognize the needs of every person.  Economically sustainable policies maintain stable and productive levels of economic growth and employment.  Environmentally sustainable policies uphold wise use of natural resources, energy conservation, and protection of our environment.  Ecological economist Herman Daly put it this way, “What use is a sawmill without a forest?”  Sustainability means there are limits to what can be dug up, burned up, eaten up, cut down, paved over, dammed up, used up, or discarded.  Most farmers are familiar with different methods of practicing sustainable agriculture.  Both UNC-Pembroke and Robeson Community College have strong Sustainable Agriculture programs.

Equally important are initiatives and actions that encourage a sustainable local economy.  There are many things that individuals and decision-makers can do to help our economy in Robeson County.  Such initiatives include; each household continuing to support local businesses already in existence with our purchases; providing encouragement and opportunities for more people to become entrepreneurs (business owners); continue searching for new, innovative options to replace revenue and jobs from defunct industries; finding profitable agricultural alternatives to replace lost revenue from the decline in tobacco production; attending local attractions, festivals, events, and performances; purchasing handmade products from local artists; warmly welcoming visitors and potential retirees to consider relocating to our region; helping schools, students, and parents achieve greater success in high school graduation rates and employment opportunities for young adults; continuing efforts to help troubled youth create a successful future; and insisting that citizens with challenging backgrounds receive the training and assistance needed to become gainfully employed, productive members of society.  Creating sustainability requires a united effort and is, therefore, both a grassroots movement and a political process.  According to the Earth Charter, a United Nations project that evolved into an independent international document endorsed by over 4,500 governments and international organizations, “A sustainable global society [is one] founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.

Community Development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to effect change in their own communities.  In my role as a Community Developer I must know how to unite people behind a common agenda and how to work with individuals and groups to bring about the greatest good for a community.  I’m also charged with empowering youth, families, and groups of people to lead healthier lives and become community leaders as well as helping strengthen the economy through profitable, sustainable and safe food, forest and green industry systems.  This includes a number of programs and initiatives that I am working on including promoting local tourism, engaging local entrepreneurs with the People First Tourism website, assisting new and potential entrepreneurs, supporting local foods efforts, and helping to develop community gardens.

If you would like more information on anything mentioned in this article, please contact me, Tahnea Locklear, Extension Community and Rural Development Agent, with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276 or by E-mail at tahnea_locklear@ncsu.edu.  For more information about Extension visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.

North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability.  In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.

Recommend this article?