Natural Resources are the center of major entrepreneurial
opportunities. Is this the next wave of action for small town
The broad topic of natural resources was our assignment for a “world
cafe” discussion session at the Midwest Rural Assembly yesterday. It
got me thinking about just how much of a central role natural
resources play in our opportunities, our tourism, our
entrepreneurship, and of course our agriculture.
Our young people see the resources and opportunities in the big city.
They don’t see the huge resources here, in small towns. From Twitter,
Joe Crockett asked if that was because we are in the middle of these
resources, so we just take them for granted. I think he’s absolutely
How do we bring together entrepreneurship, innovation, and the
protection of natural resources for our residents, our visitors, and
our legacy? That’s the challenge.
Natural resources are also key to existing businesses making an
evolution. One example is power companies helping customers reduce
consumption. That is a major transition. More farms going more towards
organic, etc. Agriculture is transitioning in a number of ways.
Ultimately, how do we retain more of the economic benefit locally
while developing these resources? I think part of the answer is
growing local entrepreneurs and businesses around natural resources.
Natural resource development issues can be more complex than any of us
really think. The Agriculture Utilization Research Institute recently
issued a “Green jobs in food production” report. Had you really
thought about the number and diversity of entrepreneurial
opportunities just around green jobs in agriculture, production and
My local resource conservation and development council, High Plains
RC&D in Oklahoma, is quite forward thinking. They work on turning the
invasive eastern red cedars into marketable products. They are
exploring the geothermal potential in our area and how it ties to
algae production. These aren’t just dreams; they are successful
businesses, pilot projects, and demonstration units active now. If you
are looking to explore the potential of natural resources in your
area, start with your local RC&D council.
Gary Funk from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks made an
excellent point: protecting natural resources can be the issue that
brings together people in rural places. It’s the most basic form of