Community Economic Preparedness: An Index Designed to Test the Economic Preparedness of Rural Communities

Randy Y. Coker, Benedict C. Posadas, Amanda Seymour, Scott A. Langlois, and Christine E. Coker
Mississippi State University, Coastal Research and Extension Center
rcoker@ra.msstate.edu

In 2010, the Mississippi State University, Center for Urban Rural Interface Studies (CURIS) conducted a research and outreach program on Community Economic Preparedness in the Gulf of Mexico Region.  The overall goal of this project was to evaluate the overall community economic preparedness of rural counties and parishes. Community Economic Preparedness involves communities actively engaged in pursuing fundamental steps toward economic resilience and disaster management.  Communities with local economies which are resilient to the effects of natural disaster will experience quick financial and physical recovery. 

The Community Economic Preparedness Index measures a county’s or parish’s economic preparedness level based on fifteen different categories:

economic development plan, effective zoning ordinances, industrial site capabilities, separate development organization, commercial development capabilities, small business development, community infrastructure, utilities capabilities, education access/quality, financial support available, strength of tourism boards, abilities/availability of labor force, natural disaster susceptibility, quality of life, and local government structure. 

Each of these variables is then given a numeric value which is used to give each county or parish an overall economic preparedness score representing the current level of economic preparedness.

The CURIS Region includes 20 counties and parishes in four of the five coastal states bordering the Gulf of Mexico: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.  These 20 counties were used as the basis for distribution of the Community Economic Preparedness Index (CEPI) Survey.  A total of 60 survey forms were mailed to these 20 counties and parishes.  Three survey forms were mailed to the Chamber of Commerce, Board of Supervisors, and Economic Development Commission in each county or parish.  A copy of the CEPI survey was mailed to each of the aforementioned sectors, along with instructions on how to complete it and a postage paid envelope to return the completed survey.  A total of 2 mailings were sent out in May and June 2010.  Of the 60 targeted CEPI survey participants, 17 completed surveys were returned, representing a response rate of 28.3%.  The data from these completed surveys are being analyzed and interpretations will be provided to participating communities to assist in economic preparedness planning for the future.

View the pdf version of the poster presentation.