Rural areas need new 'pioneers' to lead economic development

February 11, 2014  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Leaders in rural areas must take risks, innovate and become the "pioneers of the 21st century" for their communities to prosper, the director of Purdue Extension says in an online series about challenges and opportunities facing rural Indiana.

"The rural areas have resources and value to offer; they may just need to be packaged differently today," Jason Henderson says in Part 4 of a weekly series on the website of Agricultures, a magazine of the Purdue University Department of Agricultural Communication.

Henderson has extensive background in rural life and economic development. He grew up on a farm in Iowa, earned master's and doctoral degrees in agricultural economics from Purdue, and before returning to Purdue in May 2013 was a Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City vice president who led the bank's agricultural and rural outreach and research programs.  

Henderson says in the article that Purdue Extension can assist rural America in making needed changes.

"There are many opportunities for those in non-urban areas, and we in Purdue Extension can help local leaders and businesses be creative and find ways to add value to the resources they have," he says.

The future for them likely will be found in innovation, Henderson says.

"The mindset has to change. They must think like entrepreneurs and take risks. They must become the pioneers of the 21st century."

Henderson says the secret to economic prosperity in rural communities "lies in finding the right mix of people and prospects."

"The challenge is to help folks find the unique opportunities that can benefit their region while evolving to adapt to new technology and demographic changes," he says.

The interview with Henderson is available at The series, called "Giving New Life to Rural Indiana," continues each Tuesday for seven weeks. 

Writer: Keith Robinson, 765-494-2722, 

Source: Jason Henderson, 765-494-8489,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
Agriculture News Page

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