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

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 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 (CEPI) 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 CEPI Survey.  A total of 60 survey forms were mailed to these 20 counties and parishes.  Survey forms were mailed to the Chamber of Commerce, Board of Supervisors, and Economic Development Commission in each county or parish, 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 the completed surveys have been analyzed, and each preparedness category, as well as, an overall average CEPI has been calculated.   The Indices were assigned a value between zero and one, with one being the highest, or most prepared; and zero being the lowest or least prepared.  The preliminary results indicate an overall average CEPI of 0.51 for the participating respondent counties.  The highest average category score was found to be 0.83 in Industrial Site Capabilities, while the lowest average category score was listed at 0.12 in Effectiveness of County Zoning Ordinances.  A more in-depth representation of these results will be represented in the poster.

View the pdf version of the poster presentation.