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Smart Growth in Small Towns and Rural Communities

Environmental Protection Agency

     Population density influences employment growth. Educational opportunities can have a strong influence on rural growth. As online educational opportunities continue to expand, and technologies allow for a greater spread of new ideas and practices, rural areas will increase in population and economic vitality. The distribution of knowledge can be an effective economic development tool for rural areas.


EPA Resources

General Resources

Technical Assistance Programs

Technical Assistance Reports

Growth Achievement Winners


Other Resources


     Small towns and rural communities throughout the United States are looking for ways to strengthen their economies, provide a better quality of life, and build on local assets. Many rural communities and small towns are facing challenges, including rapid growth at metropolitan edges, declining rural populations, and loss of farms and working lands.

     Slow-growing and shrinking rural areas might find that their policies are not bringing the prosperity they seek, while fast-growing rural areas at the edge of metropolitan regions face metropolitan-style development pressures.

Smart growth strategies can help rural communities achieve their goals for growth and development while maintaining their distinctive rural character.

  • Planning where development should or should not go can help a rural community encourage growth in town, where businesses can thrive on a walkable main street and families can live close to their daily destinations.

  • Policies that protect the rural landscape help preserve open space, protect air and water quality, provide places for recreation and create tourist attractions that bring investments into the local economy.

  • Policies that support walking, biking, and public transit help reduce air pollution from vehicles while saving people money.

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