Allan Hooper of Consumers Energy in Jackson, MI has one of the best feels for economic development in small towns. He has been very instrumental in pulling rural MI together for an annual summit on small town development, one of the best that I’ve seen in my travels around the country.
Allan has compiled a number of great papers on the subject from around the country on their website. You can read about small town trends, community survival, local entrepreneurs, using community assets, economic gardening and engaging community alumni. Alan’s great book on “101 Quips, Quotes and Concepts for Sustainable Small Town Development” is also there.
I hope that you’ll check it out.