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October 26, 2018



Does the degree of innovation make a difference in the survival of rural manufacturers? Answering this question requires a way of classifying manufacturers as non-innovators, incremental innovators, or more far-ranging innovators. It also requires a sufficiently long time period to compare whether the degree of innovation affected survival chances. ERS researchers examined a set of manufacturing plants that were surveyed in 1996 and again in 2013. The 2013 survey included questions on whether the establishment had introduced new or significantly improved products, processes, marketing methods, or logistics processes as well as additional questions aimed at detecting the level of innovation. Non-innovators were identified as businesses that did not indicate existence of a continuous improvement program in 2013. At the other end of the spectrum, far-ranging (“substantive”) innovators had embarked on continuous improvement programs, but they also protected intellectual property, experienced innovation capital constraints, and recognized failed innovation projects—behaviors believed to characterize innovators substantially reconfiguring or redesigning products and processes. Incremental innovators fall between those two categories. These establishments tended to make improvements, but improvement efforts were relatively limited. Compared to a representative sample of all rural manufacturing plants, the “long-lived” rural manufacturing plants represented in both the 1996 and 2013 surveys were more likely to be far-ranging innovators (58% versus 33%); less likely to be non-innovators (17% versus 34% for all), and nearly as likely to be incremental innovators (26% versus 33%).



A quarter of rural Americans say that drug addiction is the biggest problem their communities face, according to a new poll of rural residents as reported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. About half of rural residents say they personally know someone, such as a friend or family member, who has struggled with opioid addiction. Younger adults were even more likely to know someone struggling with addiction. While drug addiction topped the list of community problems, a slightly smaller percentage of rural residents think that economic concerns are the biggest issue in their communities, according to the poll. When it comes to family matters, however, rural people are more concerned about money and financial problems: 27% said economic issues were their biggest family problem (as opposed to community problem), while only 1% said drug addiction was their family’s biggest problem. Health concerns overall (including drug abuse) were the second biggest family problem on the open-ended list, at 16% of respondents. The third highest group said their families had no “biggest problem.” 



Wind and solar electric generation, including small-scale solar photovoltaics, reached or exceeded 20% of total generation in 10 states in 2017, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. During some months in 2017, wind accounted for more than 50% of in-state electricity generation in Iowa and Kansas, and solar accounted for more than 20% of in-state electricity generation in California. Total annual generation from wind and solar in the United States in 2017 reached 8% for the year and peaked at 11% in April of that year.



University of Illinois Extension Community and Economic Development will air a live webinar entitled Rural Community Water: Understanding Public and Private Sources of Drinking Water on November 1, 2018, from Noon – 1:00 p.m. Steve Wilson, Groundwater Hydrologist from the Illinois State Water Survey, will discuss what local officials need to know about small drinking water systems, private wells, and septic systems, as well as share tools available to help communities make sure their drinking water is safe and meets standards. Steve specializes in SDWA (Safe Drinking Water Act) and CWA (Clean Water Act) compliance in small water and wastewater systems. He has directed more than 40 research projects funded by local, state, and federal entities. He authored the ISWS Private Well Class and manages REGISTER NOW for this free webinar.



November 1 (Webinar) - Illinois Geology: How Local Actions Impact Regional Waterways

November 13 - Rural Partners Board Meeting and Discussion

December 6 (Webinar) - Stormwater 101: How to Address Local Flooding and Water Quality Issues