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Celebrating IMPLAN History: The Rural Development Act of 1972

September 30, 2022 by Chandler West

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Rural Development Act of 1972 (RDA). The RDA was  pivotal to getting the ball rolling for IMPLAN to be created in 1976.

Here at IMPLAN, we believe in the importance of remembering and celebrating our rich history. That’s why we think this anniversary is the perfect time to look back on IMPLAN’s beginnings and reflect on how we’ve evolved!  

 Let’s take a closer look at this law and its role in IMPLAN history.

What is the Rural Development Act?

As summarized by Cornell Law’s Legal Information Institute, the RDA “directs Federal agencies to develop policies and procedures to give first priority to the location of new offices and other Federal facilities in rural areas.” This law was intended to “revitalize and develop rural areas and to help foster a balance between rural and urban America.”  

A large part of the RDA was an amendment to the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act of 1961, also called the Agricultural Act of 1961 or the Consolidated Farmers Home Administration Act of 1961. This legislation focused on expanding lending programs under the U.S. department of agriculture. The RDA also amended the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act as well as the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act.

The RDA sought to accomplish its goals through a variety of tactics – through funding programs, research and education initiatives, and community outreach. It even included a section on improving the prevention of wildfires in rural areas. 

Ultimately, though, its purpose was to give rural America a chance to thrive economically with the help of new Federal facilities.

How did this lead to IMPLAN’s creation?

The RDA led to some significant changes at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and, by extension, the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service was given the mandate to quantify their economic impact. This was not something they had been asked to put a dollar amount on before, but they knew they could find a way.

The folks at the Forest Service quickly realized that the RDA had created the need for a more efficient economic modeling tool. Lucky for all of us today, they took it upon themselves to start building one.

By 1976, when the National Forest Management Act required the Forest Service to cultivate a 5-year management plan which presented both alternative land management strategies and potential resource outputs and socioeconomic effects on local communities, they were already well on their way to building the economic impact modeling tool they would need: IMPLAN.

That same year, IMPLAN was first developed under the supervision of the Forest Service with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They also developed a sister programming model, FORPLAN, which estimated the resource outputs of land management strategies.

With each year that passed, IMPLAN grew more sophisticated and its wide range of use cases became more and more evident. In 1985, the responsibility for developing IMPLAN data sets shifted to the University of Minnesota. 

And from there, as they say, the rest is history. IMPLAN grew and changed with time, far surpassing the expectations of those who’d once put their heads together to build something new in response to the Rural Development Act of 1972. It became the most trusted economic modeling and analytics software and database for businesses, academic institutions, real estate developers, consultants, healthcare organizations, and so many other users, too.

Let’s celebrate!

As we look back on the fifty years that have passed since the spark for IMPLAN was ignited, we are so proud of how far we have come, as well as what we have in store for the future.

IMPLAN has grown from a tool specifically used for the Forest Service to one used by countless organizations of every variety – and that could include yours! With our yearly data updates, our incoming Canada solution, and the approaching arrival of international data, the possibilities are endless.

We encourage you to explore our ever-expanding list of use cases to discover how IMPLAN users are constantly finding novel ways to put economic modeling to work. If you’re interested in discussing how IMPLAN can make a difference for you, schedule a demo today!

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Topics: Impact, Economic Development, Government


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Together, our software and data give you a window into your region of study — like one gigantic transaction log for the local economy. Chances are that if your project or business has a financial component, then IMPLAN can reveal some sometimes surprising detail about how your project relates to the local, state, or national economy.

What used to take economists weeks can be done in minutes. By anyone!

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