Heartland Center for Leadership Development


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From the Keeping it Rural Conference, held by the BC Rural Centre, October 7-8, 2019.

Provided by the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2019.


Copyright 2019, Heartland Center for Leadership Development. Used by permission.


On the surface, St. Paris, Ohio, (population about 2,000) looks like hundreds of other small Midwestern farm towns—quiet and pleasant—a nice town to drive through on a Sunday afternoon. Like many communities, the town has enjoyed a “gentle growth” of about 4 % over the past ten years.

But underneath that traditional exterior, a persistent entrepreneurial spirit breeds new business with an aggressiveness that can be felt from the coffee shop to the farms that surround the town. Like many small towns in west-central Ohio, St. Paris enjoys a very diverse economic base that would be the envy of other towns in rural and more isolated areas. A huge Navistar plant, about 20 miles away, employs thousands within its giant factory compound. Just outside of St. Paris, a parts supplier for a nearby Honda plant employs nearly 1,000.