Chris Clark: The State of Rural Resiliency

Chris Clark

Monday, October 5th, 2020

My rural upbringing has taught me a lot about working har d, finding ways to overcome even the most seemingly impossible challenges, and realizing that my faith can keep me grounded when the ground is shaky. I’ve seen small towns grow, decay and reinvent themselves time and time again; yet this time, with a global pandemic still in our midst, and a recession that many economists are saying will take 10-years to overcome, rural America is facing the greatest challenge of its time.

Statistics show that non-urban communities are not even fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008 and now another grave economic challenge has threatened the very fabric of our small towns, small businesses, farmers, and homes. So, how does rural America continue to fight back when the world keeps piling it on?

The Georgia Chamber will be in Tifton next week for its annual Rural Prosperity Summit (RPS). Together with rural community leaders from states across the Southeast, as well as educators, legislators, small and medium-sized business owners and corporate executives, the Chamber will continue to lead the conversation about relevant issues facing rural communities today. On Wednesday, October 7, at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus, leaders will come together both in-person and virtually to explore the following topics impacting rural America:

  • Future of Rural Freight & Logistics – Georgia’s rural communities are well positioned to enjoy economic growth associated with the state’s freight and logistics industry as the Port of Savannah doubles its container production in the coming years. We will explore how to position your community to maximize this opportunity.

  • Future of Rural Housing – Sadly, at least twenty percent of rural Georgians live in poverty and struggle to provide a safe and healthy home for their families. We will discuss how public- private partnerships and community action groups are making a difference in rural areas and how you can translate this to your hometown.

  • Future of Rural America – For years, pundits and prognosticators have talked of the decline of rural towns across our nation. During this session, small-town professionals will highlight ways in which they successfully changed that narrative for rural communities in North Carolina and Minnesota using skilled municipal planning, grit, and the power of social media.

  • Future of Inclusion & Equality – The opportunity to embrace a more inclusive society is not limited to metropolitan areas. We will hear about strategies and tactics for how to facilitate meaningful dialogue among community leaders and better understand the benefits of economic mobility for all.

  • Future of Rural School Infrastructure – COVID-19 has highlighted the challenge that rural school systems face when it comes to remote learning and keeping students healthy. We will discuss effective solutions to address this and other obstacles facing our schools today.

  • Future of Rural Leadership –Georgia Department of Economic Development Rural Initiatives Deputy Commissioner Amy Carter will lead a discussion with guest speakers from the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) around the importance of community-wide leadership and provide strategies to work across geo-political boundaries.

  • Future of Rural Healthcare –A number of rural hospitals are on the verge of failing after the unprecedented burden of COVID-19, yet the demand for skilled labor in healthcare has increased by 189%. We will learn from industry leaders as they discuss the future of this critical industry.

I am optimistic about what the future holds for rural Georgia and look forward to discussing these issues next week. Our program will offer both virtual and limited, in-person options; to reserve your ticket, please visit I hope you will join us for some great discussions and idea-sharing that can bring about a fundamental effort to rebuild, repurpose and reimagine a New Rural Georgia Economy.