Frequently Asked Questions
Get answers to common questions about the Rural Resource Coalition SC.
The Rural Resource Coalition SC (RRCSC) began forming in 2009. Representatives from affordable housing, agriculture, community development, conservation, forestry, heirs’ property, and tourism recognized the need for a united effort focused on sustainable economic development in the state’s rural communities. Economic development efforts that also have the added value of respecting our state’s vast natural resources are vital to our state’s future.
With emphasis on spurring wealth creation from within rural communities, the group works to create a stronger South Carolina economy through: local food markets, working farm and forest conservation, affordable housing, homegrown renewable energy, downstream markets for agricultural and forestry products, and local tourism development. Together, the coalition represents the interests of hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians and billions of dollars of economic impact.
We strive to advance our mission: to capitalize on South Carolina’s human and natural resources in order to improve the quality of life for all her citizens by promoting sustainable economic development in rural communities and wise stewardship of her land and water.
Our major goals are to:
- Advance policy for a sustainable rural economic development fund.
- Grow grassroots effort to support the work of this coalition and our goals.
- Promote value of natural resources (land, water, wildlife habitats) along with rural communities’ human resources and assets.
- Promote ongoing support for key resource agencies.
Please visit our Resources and Data area for more detail on our goals.
Many organizations share our vision for rural prosperity and our coalition includes range of participants. Affordable housing, agriculture, community development, conservation, forestry, heirs’ property, and tourism groups as well as small businesses and individuals in South Carolina are participating in the coalition. You can find a current list of participants here.
We welcome organizations, businesses, agencies, community groups and individuals that support our mission to join us.
Our mission is: to capitalize on South Carolina’s human and natural resources in order to improve the quality of life for all her citizens by promoting sustainable economic development in rural communities and wise stewardship of her land and water.
South Carolina’s rural areas are home to an abundance of natural and human assets that represent a wealth of untapped potential to move our state forward. These areas, however, are struggling with high unemployment and poverty, because of past practices that have failed to build sustainable wealth from within local economies.
Harnessing opportunities in local tourism, food markets, affordable housing, community economic development and conservation, to name a few options, means jobs for South Carolinians, stronger communities, and stronger economies throughout the state. Our future lies in resolving the stark contrast between rural and urban communities in South Carolina and transforming our state into a single, united community, instead of two significantly contrasting ones.
In South Carolina’s most undeveloped, rural areas, landowners face daily challenges to maintaining traditional land uses and communities struggle with poverty and higher unemployment rates than in urban areas. In South Carolina, 16.8 percent of the population lives in poverty, compared with 14.7 percent nationwide. However, statewide unemployment has been decreasing steadily in recent years, with South Carolina currently at a 4.4 percent unemployment rate, compared with 4.5 percent nationwide.
The gap between South Carolina and the rest of the country is not as stark as the disparities between rural and urban areas within our state. Rural counties, such as Allendale, Bamberg, Colleton, and Orangeburg are struggling with poverty rates of 41.0, 32.7, 23.1 and 24.0 percent, respectively. By comparison, urban Richland County has a poverty rate of 15.8 percent and the state average is 16.8 percent.
Unemployment rates in rural Allendale, Bamberg, Colleton, and Orangeburg counties are 8.1, 8.0, 5.0, and 7.7 percent, respectively, while the rate for urban Richland County stands at 4.4 percent.
A new way forward in South Carolina means empowering these rural areas to harness the untapped potential of their human and natural assets for healthier, more vibrant communities that build wealth from within.
SOURCES: US Census Bureau, Small Area Estimates Branch, 2015 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, Department of Employment & Workforce, 2017, report.
Though the recession has exacerbated high poverty and unemployment rates in our state’s rural areas, the trend predates it. These indicators are the long and unfortunate legacy of generations of failed policies. We must break with a past and chart a new path for building wealth within communities, so that South Carolina can compete in the future.
Throughout our country, and in rural South Carolina, exciting trends are taking place that focus on ways to generate and circulate wealth inside local economies. They include local food markets that bring farmers into direct contact with consumers; home weatherization projects that lower utility bills and create local jobs; and conservation easements that help landowners invest in their farming and forestry operations.
What’s different about these new efforts? First, they are oriented toward long-term, sustainable economic growth. Second, they take an integrated, holistic approach to economic development. Third, they reflect the values and knowledge of entrepreneurs and community leaders willing to break with past practices and seek a new way forward.
Building wealth from within means looking at the whole picture. Farmers cannot sell their produce directly without considering processing and marketing concerns. Weatherizing homes requires creative loan financing and stringent energy audits to prioritize projects. Conserving our best farms and forests means analyzing everything from soil quality to transportation concerns.
We envision rural prosperity built on existing community resources and leadership that takes advantage of a cluster of emerging and interdependent opportunities, including sustainable food markets, outdoor tourism and affordable housing.
South Carolina houses an abundance of natural resources that already contribute greatly to our economy and could serve as a foundation for building the rural economies that are struggling in today’s financial climate. Indeed, studies show the combined impact of the agriculture, forestry, outdoor recreation and tourism sectors accounts for one-third of the state’s economy, over $54 billion and 463,000 jobs, or one out of three jobs in the state.
Our state’s most rural areas are home to these abundant natural assets. For instance, about 50 percent of rural Bamberg County consists of farmland. Orangeburg County is over 40 percent farmland and is the 3rd-ranked county in agricultural sales. Similarly, underdeveloped Colleton County is 75% forested and leads the state in timber production. Successful farm and forestland owners and businesses are critical to rural economic improvement. Boosting these sectors means more jobs and increased revenues for the state.
Sources: University of South Carolina, “Green Means Green, The Economic Impact of SC’s Natural Resources”; Miley & Gallo, “The Economic Impact of the Agriculture & Forest Industry in South Carolina”; US Travel Association and SCPRT 2007, S.C. Tourism Satellite Account Analysis (Core Travel Component Only). 2007 Census of Agriculture, South Carolina State and County Data, United States Department of Agriculture.