Hilda Gay Legg Discusses the “Changing Picture of Rural America” During Closing Keynote Address at NTCA Fall ConferenceSeptember 24, 2003, Boston, Mass. – During a closing keynote address at the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association’s (NTCA) Fall Conference, Rural Utilities Services Administrator Hilda Gay Legg discussed the changing landscape of rural America and encouraged attendees to tackle these changes head-on, with a triple threat consisting of 1) awareness, 2) alliances and 3) innovation.
"I think you, as leaders of communities and technology providers, stand before a new canvas. You must use the tools that you have to create a vision and pass that vision on to others. The tools that you have, the paint and brush, if you will, are awareness, alliances and innovation," said Legg.
Legg informed attendees that they must begin changing the picture by realizing that rural America is "vital and important to the foundation of all America." However, Legg cautioned, they also should be aware that the picture has changed and no one picture can depict all that rural America embodies.
Legg pointed to the changing economy of rural America to further illustrate her point. "In 1969, 935 rural counties were classified as farming-dependent. 30 years later, only 262 counties were farm-dependent. Today, seven out of eight rural communities are dominated by a combination of manufacturing, service-oriented and other non-farming services," Legg stated.
Legg also stressed the importance of rural telephone companies forming strategic alliances, not only with associations and organizations such as CFC and CoBank, but with other government agencies, such as the RUS’ Rural Development arm.
Legg assured attendees that, in most cases, the "good news is that change often leads to the tool of innovation, the final ingredient in Legg’s triple threat equation.
"Telcos must continue to explore innovative ways to be more efficient and effective. In rural America where the costs of all forms of telecommunications plants are higher, the efficient carrier will be the winner," Legg stated.
"Having the tools and applying them so we can paint the new picture of rural America all comes down to having a skilled artist holding the brush. The tools are there, but the old, staid picture will remain with your leadership," Legg said.
"If we are going to paint a bright rural America, that is vibrant and healthy, it will take all of us," Legg concluded.
NTCA is the premier association representing more than 550 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides its members with legislative, regulatory, and industry representation; meetings, publications, and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs.