Rural rebranding toolkit: How to bring new purpose to your town

A collection of innovative projects and ideas from around the world

Towns and rural communities often struggle with their identity in a changing world. Sometimes the industries that once sustained them have moved on or dwindled. Or their populations might be sharply declining, leaving a lack of activity.

One way to turn a community around is to “rebrand” it: to clarify its purpose, or establish a new one, and then communicate it to the outside world, attracting new residents and businesses that will help revive the region.

If you need help turning your ideas into reality and kickstarting the rebranding process, this guide is here to help.

We’ve curated a list of key strategies to guide you through your journey, each with examples of innovative schemes from around the world. And — in case you want to learn more — each initiative is equipped with contact details and links so that you can investigate further.

Whether you’re spearheading the project yourself, or providing guidance from central government, here are the steps you can take.


 

QUICK NAVIGATION

1. Create a growing economy and hub for entrepreneurship
2. Make the community a great place for young people
3. Invest in tourism, arts and heritage
4. Offer financial incentives, cheaper housing and low living costs
5. Emphasise benefits for families
6. Welcome migrants
7. Advertise the beauty of the countryside

 


1. CREATE A GROWING ECONOMY AND HUB FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP 
Economic development is a pull for newcomers and a financial boost for the area

Invest in the Heart of the South West (UK)
Advice, support and training for companies considering relocation to Devon, Somerset, Plymouth or Torbay
📧eifion.jones@heartofswlep.co.uk
📞 
+44 07739 359125

Southwest Initiative Foundation: Minnesota Core Centre of Rural Entrepreneurship (USA)
Networking, classes, resources and financial support for new start-ups and existing businesses
📧 contactsloans@swifoundation.orgjackiet@swifoundation.org
📞 
320-583-2180; 320-583-0162

Devon Delivers (UK)
Advice and support, including data for business planning, premises, local contacts and transport funding, for new or expanding companies in Devon
📧 economy@devon.gov.uk
📞 
+441392 382165
📱 @DDCeconomy (Twitter)

Into Somerset (UK)
Bespoke advice, assistance and resources for new or expanding businesses in Somerset
📞 +447976 695693

Nebraska Centre for Rural Affairs (USA)
Enterprise zones, grants, tax breaks and marketing to attract new and growing businesses in the region
📧 kimp@cfra.org; chuckh@cfra.orgjonb@cfra.org

Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Rural Growth Network Program (UK)
Funded enterprise hubs in rural areas
📞 03459 335577 (UK only); +44 20 7238 6951

Invest in Torbay (UK)
Free and confidential investor services to help with relocation and expansion in Torbay
📧 invest@tedcltd.com
📱 @Invest_Torbay (Twitter)

Pillar Technology: Rural Forge Initiative (Jefferson, USA)
Project to transform the area into a technological hub, attracting new businesses
📧 dsm@pillartechnology.com; cmh@pillartechnology.com; arb@pillartechnology.com

Invest in Taunton (UK)
Information and contacts for businesses intending to move to Taunton
📧 ecdev@tauntondeane.gov.uk
📞 +441823 356489
📱 @TauntonBusiness (Twitter)

 

2. MAKE THE COMMUNITY A GREAT PLACE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE 
Attracting the next generation is vital to protect the future of communities and address ageing populations

Return to Rural (Alberta, Canada)
Connects young people with work, life and business opportunities in Alberta’s Special Area, while the website, videos, blogs and social media promote the region’s youth benefits
📱 @SpecialAreas (Twitter, Instagram); @Return2rural (Facebook)

Grant County Economic Growth Council: Grants for Grads (USA)
The Homebuyer Incentive Program offers homebuyers in the region up to a $5,000 contribution towards down payments, while the Renter Incentive Program offers a 20% reduction in monthly rent payments
📧 info@grantcounty.com
📞 (888) 668-3203

University of Kansas School of Business: RedTire (USA)
The project matches graduates with business owners who are looking to retire, addressing the closing of rural Kansas businesses due to a lack of a successor
📧 redtire@ku.edu; dentonz@ku.eduwmeyerjr@ku.edu
📞 785-864-8863; 785-864-7583

Kansas Department of Commerce: Rural Opportunity Zones (USA)
Almost 80 Kansas counties are offering new residents Kansas state income tax waivers for up to five years and/or student loan repayments of up to $15,000 over 5 years
📧 rachell.rowand@ks.gov
📞 (785)296-3345

ReGen (Iron Range, USA)
A grassroots group promoting the growth of a younger demographic in the Iron Range through numerous programs including events, a business mentorship program, podcasts and blogs
📱 
@regen_insight (Twitter); @regenironrange (Facebook)

 

3. INVEST IN TOURISM, ARTS AND HERITAGE
Culture is a good way of attracting people to the area and building a reputation

Government of Kumamoto Prefecture: Kumamon mascot (Japan)
Having recently made his debut as a YouTuber, Kumamon is a successful example of Yuru-chara mascots to promote local pride and attract tourists to the region

Madison Council: Lou T.Fisk (USA)
A 28-foot fiberglass fish attracts external attention to the area

The Eden Project (Cornwall, UK)
A china clay pit was reclaimed as a garden and covered by two large biomes, making for a popular attraction

Visit Finland: Rent a Finn (Finland)
A program through which citizens will teach visitors how to find joy in nature
📱 @OurFinland (Twitter);@visitfinland (Facebook)

 

4. OFFER FINANCIAL INCENTIVES, CHEAPER HOUSING AND LOWER LIVING COSTS 
Cheaper property and living expenses are key pull-factors for rural areas

Rural Housing Trust (UK)
Affordable shared ownership housing in rural areas
📧 enquiries@ruralhousing.org.uk
📞 0207 9355042

Harmony Economic Development Authority: Home Construction Rebate Program (USA)
A cash rebate of up to $12,000 to those who build a new home in Harmony
📧 cityoffice@harmony.mn.us
📞 507-886-2846

Department of Agriculture Rural Development: Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program in Colorado (USA)
Loans for moderate to low-income households looking to buy homes in rural areas in Colorado
📧 cogrhinquiries@co.usda.gov; james.morton@co.usda.govtiffany.huff@co.usda.gov
📞 720-544-2903; (970)824-3476 (ext. 110)

Wyoming Community Development Authority: First-time Home Buyer Program (USA)
Low interest rates, 30-year financing and a payment assistance loan for first-time homebuyers in the region
📱 @_WCDA (Twitter)

Alaska Housing Finance Corporation: Rural Loans (USA)
Provides financing to purchase or renovate owner-occupied housing in small communities
📞 907-338-6100

Western Minnesota Prairie Waters: Cost of Living Tool (USA)
A cost of living calculator to demonstrate the ‘hard to beat’ living expenses of the region
📧 info@prairiewaters.com
📞 (866) 866–5432

The City of Curtis: Free Lots (USA)
Free plots of land for families wanting to build a house in Curtis
📧 ctybrown@curtis-ne.com; ctywelch@curtis-ne.com

 

5. EMPHASISE BENEFITS FOR FAMILIES
Many people move out of the city to start a family — make your town their ideal new home

Western Minnesota Prairie Waters: Stories of Families (USA)
Success stories of people raising a family in the region
📧 info@prairiewaters.com
📞 (866) 866–5432

Rethink Rural: Blogs on Raising a Family (UK)
Blogs sharing information on raising a family in rural areas
📱@rethink_rural (Twitter); @rethinkingrural (Facebook)

 

6. WELCOME MIGRANTS
While cities are struggling to cope with growing populations, rural areas are in need of newcomers

County of Simcoe Immigration (Canada)
Integration services, support for employers hiring migrants and a website, available in 15 different languages, with information for newcomers
📧 info@simcoe.ca
📞 (705) 726-9300

Government of Alberta: Immigration Settlement Support Programs (Canada)
Resources and support for migrants to Alberta
📞 780-427-2711

 

7. ADVERTISE THE BEAUTY OF THE COUNTRYSIDE 
The rural lifestyle attracts those in pursuit of a healthier, outdoors and peaceful lifestyle, away from the busyness and pollution of the city

Western Minnesota Prairie Waters: Photo Contest (USA)
A photo competition for the best photo of the Prairie Waters, requiring entrants to post their photos on social media using #PrairieWaters, thereby spreading the natural beauty of the region
📧 info@prairiewaters.com
📞 (866) 866–5432

The Cornish Life (UK)
Originating as a hobby, Anna’s blog has transformed into a useful resource for locals, visitors and potential relocators, as well as a partner for organisations and businesses looking to promote the area — it features blogs promoting the areas scenic coastline, as well as lifestyle vlogs.
📱@thecornishlife (Facebook)

 

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