BUILDING RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE
As in the rest of the country, roads, bridges, and housing in rural America are in need of investment. The energy grid must be transitioned to zero emissions. State government infrastructure funding often dries up before reaching all the rural communities that need it. Fortunately, the federal Inflation Reduction Act is pouring unprecedented funding into these upgrades and rural workers are primed to be front and center in leading the clean energy transition. Unlike so many extractive “boom and bust” industries that mine natural resources from rural regions and then leave, green energy should be a long-term investment, providing stability and family-sustaining wages to rural communities and allowing them to further invest in housing, health care, and other critical infrastructure needs. This is an exciting moment that could truly transform how rural communities look, feel, and engage with their urban and suburban neighbors.
Framing: independence, stability, innovation
As policymakers, it is our goal to unite communities across our shared values. Investing in rural infrastructure including clean energy and affordable housing is a top priority. Engaging your constituents across the shared values of independence, stability, and innovation is a powerful strategy because these values are deeply held among working people, regardless of where they live or what they look like.
With the support of policy priorities that address rural infrastructure like those below,, local communities will have what they need to solve local problems. Opposition continues to talk at families, we are forging a new path to ensure legislators are speaking with families. By using effective communication strategies, we can neutralize inflammatory language, unite our coalitions, and pass the policies we all need.
USE SHARED RURAL VALUES TO CRAFT YOUR MESSAGE
Effective communication requires not only facts but leveraging the values people share to resonate across race, class, age, gender, and place. The best messages follow the VPSA model: Values, Problem, Solution, Action. First, we unite along shared values to introduce the issue, then demonstrate the collectively-held problem, name the solution to the problem, and finally, when appropriate, leave with a call to action joining you to solve the problem. This formula keeps our messages concise while disarming opponents who seek to divide us. To get you started, here are three rural values that are particularly relevant for communicating with rural constituents about rural infrastructure:
- Framing: A strong rural infrastructure, including regionally-produced energy and reliable broadband, allows rural communities to be independent. State and federal investments in rural infrastructure are valuable in part because they keep rural communities from being dependent on an anchor employer or another large company to fund infrastructure priorities.
- Example Statement: (Value) Rural communities in our state deserve to have all the tools they need to be self-reliant. (Problem) But the lack of reliable broadband is cutting rural residents out of the modern economy. (Solution) Our Municipal Broadband Bill will provide families and workers access to locally-owned and operated broadband in under-served areas, which will improve our education system and stimulate our local economy.
- Example Talking Points:
- Building affordable housing helps make sure every family in our community has the opportunity to thrive.
- When we invest in locally-owned renewable energy infrastructure, we invest in communities’ ability to provide for themselves without being beholden to corporations exploiting local resources and setting unfair prices for utilities.
- Framing: A stable local infrastructure gives hardworking rural families stability. A resilient energy grid, affordable housing, and reliable broadband protect families from some of the uncertainties of extreme weather, housing market fluctuations, and rapidly changing job markets.
- Example Statement: (Value) Rural constituents want stability for their families. (Problem) But a lag in new home construction and wages too low for a working family to buy a home have left many small-town families without safe, affordable housing. (Solution) Our Housing Investment Bill would develop affordable housing in rural communities, ensuring working families have the tools and resources they need to become homeowners.
- Example Talking Points:
- In today’s digital job market, an investment in reliable and affordable high-speed internet can connect rural residents to jobs that will sustain their families.
- Recent extreme storms, droughts, and wildfires have exposed the weaknesses in our energy grid, especially in light of the changing climate. Investing in green energy infrastructure will make our grid resilient for the long haul.
- Framing: By necessity, rural residents have always been innovators. A stable, future-oriented infrastructure, including broadband connectivity and clean energy, provide many opportunities for rural innovation, whether it’s the creativity of a parent’s remote job or an invention by a community college student to make batteries more efficient.
- Example Statement: (Value)Rural residents are innovators and problem-solvers. (Problem) But for decades, our state government has prioritized the short-term gain of fossil fuel production rather than investing in the future by investing in green energy and local creativity. (Solution) That’s why we want to create a state Green Bank to invest in community-designed infrastructure projects. These innovative solutions could provide family farmers with tools to lower their costs by maximizing resources or secure our food supply by preparing for extreme weather.
- Example Talking Points:
- Rural Americans don’t just deserve a place in the 21st-century American economy, they have the creativity and innovation to be its leaders.
- Rural Americans want to experiment with new ways of doing things, especially if they can save money in the long run. We need policies that provide tools and incentives for home weatherization, sustainable building materials, and other practices to reduce home energy use.
In practice: Media getting it right
Report | Quitting Fossil Fuels and Reviving Rural America. 2022
- WHAT WE LIKE
- “Communities will resist the transition away from fossil fuels if drilling continues to be the only revenue available to support their schools, infrastructure, and other essential services. Oil and gas executives benefit from—and lobby to protect—the current system where communities are fully dependent on the industry.”
- MOVING FORWARD:
- Include stories from local community members when possible!
Article | Kansas Encourages Rural Housing With Massive Influx of Funds, 2023
- WHAT WE LIKE:
Values Independence – “With the moderate-income housing program, we try to recognize that each community … may have different assets in their own community,” said Alissa Ice, director of housing development at KHRC.”