Energize Clinton County is a non-profit organization founded to lead a community driven response to the economic crisis caused by the closure of the former DHL hub in Wilmington and the loss of nearly 10,000 jobs. ECC utilizes an approach based on re-localizing rural economies, by developing community based solutions to growing local businesses, local food economies, and local energy systems. We strive to make our work and our community a new model for restoring rural communities as vibrant places in the world.
Two factors inspired the founding and development of Energize Clinton County. The first was the loss of 10,000 jobs in our rural hometown resulting from the departure of DHL from the Wilmington Air Park in 2008 – 2009. This event, and its proceeding economic crisis, become a catalyst for massive change. It forced us to question the survival of our hometown—the most important place we’d ever called home—and inspired us to put off Peace Corps service to come home and serve.
The second source of inspiration for our work is a belief that rural communities need new approach to economic and community development. For the last three decades, rural communities have adopted strategies imposed upon them from outside experts that have heavily emphasized businesses that extract wealth from rural communities. As a result, many rural communities have seen the financial and social capital that they had built up during years of local, agriculturally driven growth evaporate, and with it, their economic futures. Our discontent with this situation, as well as our excitement about new models of grassroots development emerging in international settings, led us to embrace our community’s crisis as an opportunity to develop a new model for strengthening rural communities and economies through citizen led economic development. Not only have these “bottom-up” approaches to economic development proven themselves to be effective at producing significant economic impact, they are also proven to be more sustainable, less expensive, and able strengthen communities through the process of community problem solving.
Framing our approach within the concept of “mass localism,” we are working to develop a model that will provide rural leaders with the understanding, resources, and inspiration needed to create local solutions to building thriving local rural economies. We are working to make Clinton County the starting point of a movement that transforms the rural Midwest.
Since our founding, we have worked with our community to develop initiatives that re-localize our economy to support our community’s economic redevelopment. These initiatives include supporting local entrepreneurs through our Buy Local First campaign, growing the local food economy by creating a thriving farmers’ market where growers and shoppers can meet and do business, and by keeping more wealth in our community by helping businesses and homeowners save money through energy efficiency, or produce more energy locally using renewable technologies.
Mark Rembert & Taylor Stuckert
Co-founders of Energize Clinton County