- Ines Polonius, MA, MBA
- Corianne Scally, PhD, MSP
- Alison Davis, PhD
Research Project Description
Water is critical to community health and business activity. Businesses and residents need access to quality water and wastewater systems, but many of the 55,000 rural water systems fall short, leading to serious public health consequences. These problems can spur rural out migration, prevent new businesses from starting, and weaken local economic opportunity, but the data are not commonly available to understand these relationships nor how to improve them. Our research will answer: How do water and wastewater system improvements in rural communities affect local economic development? We will explore differences in system quality and needs, and the effect of system improvements on economic development, between southern rural communities of color and majority-white communities. We will also ask how CDFI technical assistance and lending for rural water and wastewater systems can reduce economic inequalities between communities of color and majority-white communities, and what changes in policies and practices are needed to reduce economic inequalities through water and wastewater system improvements? This research partnership will help CU: 1) strengthen advocacy on behalf of rural places, 2) better educate rural leaders on the urgency of addressing safe drinking water and wastewater issues, 3) innovate work on the ground in communities to maximize impact on communities and their health, and 4) inform a system of incentives for better water and wastewater system management and maintenance. Results will also inform CU’s current practices, as well as those of a national network of similar organizations.
Ines Polonius, MA, MBA
Ms. Polonius is CEO of Communities Unlimited, Inc., a CDFI and non-profit organization driving holistic community economic development, from infrastructure improvements to the growth of small businesses in rural communities in seven states in the South including Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama. She brings passion and expertise to the building entrepreneurial ecosystems that move rural and under-resourced communities in persistent poverty counties toward prosperity.
Corianne Scally, PhD, MSP
Dr. Scally is a principal research associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where she explores the complexities of cross-sector implementation of affordable housing and community development policy and practice, and intersections with health. Her work evaluates how well these systems work to serve vulnerable populations, including low-income families, people with disabilities, older adults, and individuals suffering from poor health and trauma.
Alison Davis, PhD
Dr. Davis is the H.B. Price Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky and the Executive Director of the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky. Her work focuses on promoting a stronger sense of community and an improved economic base in rural areas through integrated research and engagement efforts. Her research focuses on economic development , housing, and rural health.