Economic Development

What I Learned in Harrisburg

  Although I was raised in Ohio, I have been developing a bit of a relationship with Pennsylvania over the past decade. It started with a series of summers camping in Lancaster, complemented by time in nearby York County, and injected with periodic trips to Harrisburg, the state capital. And Philadelphia too, of course, for the big-city vibe in the state.

This past week, I spoke at the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association (PEDA) spring conference. I learned a lot from the other speakers, who discussed work on the Port of Philadelphia and shipping issues, as well freight that traverses the state via rail or roadway (did you know that a Walmart distribution center in Bethlehem can reach 95 percent of the U.S. population in two days?). Other speakers described their local and regional businesses, and several (including a firm that manufactured paper for Lincoln's inauguration) have pivoted to meet changing market demands and technologies. Fortunately, several of the morning speakers noted the need for broadband, so my sales pitch in the afternoon was already primed.

Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth

Rural Americans face a number of very dramatic health challenges. They tend to be older, less affluent, and subject to higher instances of chronic disease than their urban counterparts. Despite the fact that the United States as a whole spends more on health care than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country, rural Americans continue to face lower life expectancies than those living in urban areas.

Telehealth—“the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using telecommunications technology”—holds tremendous potential to improve the quality, cost and availability of health care in rural areas.

A recent Smart Rural Community (SRC) white paper, “Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth,” outlines the case to be made for increasing adoption of telehealth in rural areas, and throughout the country. 

According to the paper, the nonquantifiable benefits of telehealth are numerous: improved access to specialists, speedier treatment, the comfort of remaining close to home, eliminating the need for long-distance transportation, the ability for health care providers to sharpen their skills, and improved patient outcomes.

Silver Bullets, Silver Buckshot

  Over the past several years, I have had the privilege and good fortune to work with and learn from several respected academics who study telecom and rural issues. If there is one idea that I draw from their inquiries and conclusions (and even their tentative conclusions), it is that there is no silver bullet to address rural America. There is, however, silver buckshot.