HIGHTOWER: Homemade Economic Growth

Commonsense has been called "genius with its work clothes on."Finally, some economic-development specialists in America's rural areas are beginning to apply a little common-sense in their work. For decades, conventional wisdom has said that the only source of economic growth for rural communities is big business. So, area after area has gone hat-in-hand to corporate executives, offering tax breaks, low-wage workers and other giveaways if only the corporation would move a factory to their area.But now the companies are stiffing the towns that wooed them, moving their factories to Asia, abandoning the locals. It's the "slam, bam, thank-you ma'am" school of today's global economics.So what's a town to do? Think local. Dozens of areas are suddenly realizing that there is great economic potential in their own, homegrown, enterprises. In Ashville, North Carolina, for example, economic development officials recently discovered that there is a goldmine right in their own backyard -- hundreds of weavers, woodcarvers, potters, quilters and other artisans producing wonderful crafts.By organizing a non-profit group called HandMade In America, local officials are now promoting the work and boosting the sales of these grassroots businesses. Building on tourism in the area, the group publishes a guide called "The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina," directing tourists to some 400 local artisans. This craft industry is now pumping $122 million a year into the economy and employing about 4,000 people.The real bottom line of this local approach, though, is not the money it produces, but the sense of community it engenders. The effort shows that people do matter more than corporations, and that they can build their communities despite the rampant greed of the globalists.This is Jim Hightower saying ... To learn how they did it, call HandMade in America: 704/252-0121.

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