Rural development is the improvement in overall rural community conditions, including economic and other quality of life considerations such as the environment, health, infrastructure, and housing. For most small communities, this improvement involves population and employment growth, however, such growth is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for rural development. (USDA Theme Paper, 2006)

The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NWMCOG) and its New Designs for Growth program wishes to engage rural investment partners throughout its 10-County region in order to increase awareness of rural development issues and to provide a framework to develop and implement rural competitiveness strategies.