Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 1998


Published in Great Plains Research 8 (Fall 1998):281-98. Copyright © 1998 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


Widespread economic problems in rural areas have stimulated interest in rural economic development, and particularly in locally-based development initiatives. This paper describes and evaluates a state/local economic development initiative that has been operational in North Dakota for almost ten years-creation of regional economic development funds financed by local option sales taxes. Data collected through interviews with managers of seven such funds, which have been operating from one to eight years, provide the basis for describing the economic development activities supported by the funds and the results of those efforts. The findings show that the businesses assisted have resulted in creation of substantial numbers of jobs. Six of the funds, which had been operating from four to eight years, provided support to businesses that created almost 4,500 jobs. Of the businesses supported, 89% were still operating at the time the study was conducted. The regional funds appear to be an effective economic development tool and also offer a mechanism for multi-community collaboration to achieve development goals. Additional research is needed to (I) identify key factors associated with success of these initiatives, and (2) quantify the extent to which the observed job creation can be attributed directly to the activities of the regional funds, by use of a "control group" of communities without such development programs.