Innovation in Small Town America (Episode 48)

Written by Nick Stumo-Langer | Date Published: June 14th, 2018 | Category: Building Local Power, Podcast

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“[T]he more I see between small towns and big cities, boy, I just really love small towns.” This quote from Christopher Mitchell, the Building Local Power podcast host and Community Broadband Networks initiative director, kicks off this conversation about the power of small towns and what they can do to build their local economy.

Mitchell joins fellow ILSR researchers, John Farrell (the director of our Energy Democracy initiative) and Brenda Platt (ILSR co-director and director of our Composting for Community initiative), in discussing small towns and the innovative policies they enact.

Mitchell discusses Ammon, Idaho, a town that has built a fiber network and opened it to the entire community to get connected. This has improved the local business environment and ensured robust broadband competition.

Platt details findings from ILSR’s latest report, Yes! In My Backyard: A Home Composting Guide for Local Government, on how a small investment in home composting brings big returns for local governments. She also provides details about a home composting bin distribution program in Cheverly, Md., that has saved them tens of thousands of dollars and diverted more materials from the landfill.

And, finally, Farrell mentions Decorah, Iowa — a town long known for its support for locally-owned renewable energy and in the news recently for a vote that just failed to create a municipal electric utility. He charts the town’s long history with innovative energy solutions, such as creating a renewable energy district and other ways that the community is saving money and asserting local control.

After hearing all of the innovative policies that small towns enact for their citizens, ILSR co-director Brenda Platt concludes: “Whether it’s broadband, local energy, local composting, you can save money, provide better service, create local jobs, and protect the environment. So think outside the box and go local.”

  • Yes! In My Backyard: A Home Composting Guide for Local Government — Tackling the problem of food waste is gaining attention in order for communities to avoid garbage, conserve resources, create jobs, alleviate hunger, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) details how home composting is among the best opportunities to reduce food waste, especially in the near term and in areas lacking curbside collection or facilities to compost. The 90-page report found that for every 10,000 households composting at home, between 1,400 and 5,000 tons per year could be diverted from curbside collection, with potential savings in avoided disposal costs alone ranging from $72,000 to $250,000.
  • Vote for Decorah Municipal Utility Falls Short, But Local Energy Advocates Persist — With a remarkably close final result, local organizers almost achieved their goal in creating a municipal utility for this Iowa town, despite fierce opposition from the existing, investor-owned utility. While this result is a set-back, it does underscore Decorah’s commitment to locally-owned renewable energy.
  • Ammon’s Model: The Virtual End of Cable Monopolies — This 19-minute video, embedded below, runs through the movement that built and continues to push Ammon, Idaho’s community broadband network. It delves into the exciting growth possibilities and economic development opportunities of this investment.

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Audio Credit: Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL Ft: Fourstones — Scomber (Bonus Track). Copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

Photo Credit: By Bobak Ha’Eri [CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons.

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Originally published at on June 14, 2018.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has a vision of thriving, diverse, equitable communities. To reach this, we build local power to fight corporate control