America's food, water, energy, and recreational activities are sourced almost exclusively in rural lands and towns. The economic success of America's future must entwine rural and urban assets. Our collective challenge is to identify and support the most imaginative and successful ventures because building stronger communities helps our nation as a whole and grows our creative infrastructure.

The Art-Force Strategic Design Alliances Program selects small enterprises, ready to expand their revenue and reach. We collaboratively identify the problem and the potential solution, repositioning products or services for growth.

Funded by ArtPlace America, this program partnered three creative teams inside three small manufacturing plants to develop new products, manufacturing processes, and operations. We synced key relationships by familiarity with materials and visual processes to successfully diversify product lines and reimagine existing business models. The design impact of these partnerships echoed beyond factory doors. Using core materials, teams fabricated and prominently sited civic artworks in three historic town centers. Municipal planning, economic development, and cultural staff recognized the visual adrenaline achieved through the work, and began to internalize how similar models might accelerate and complement future economic change.

These initiatives are cross-currents, or exchanges of existing skills and collaborative techniques, which raised regional awareness and coalesced with economic policy and funding directions by civic leadership. Actions ranged from the adoption of new zoning ordinances diversifying building uses to a $14.5M bond issue directed to downtown streetscapes, parks, and greenways.

The cycle of increasing manufacturing capacity by means of new products contribute to job stability, impact the recirculation of capital locally, and strengthen distressed communities. These substantive interventions have placed in motion ripple effects with the capacity to reverse static economic conditions.

Funded by the NC Rural Economic Development Center, the project prototyped a workforce model for job creation and retention tapping underutilized manufacturing capacity. The creative partnership between the artists and the manufacturer designed new products to diversify existing product lines and stimulate the local community's social and economic development. The project engaged artists on the shop floor to extend design boundaries, produce a multi-platform core product application, and contribute creative strategies that activated technical experimentation. Over time, this Return on Creativity contributes and stabilizes private and public sector transformation.