A title screen from Elaine McMillion's "Hollow."

Elaine McMillion was born in Logan County, West Virginia, but has chosen its neighbor, McDowell County, as the subject of her documentary “Hollow.” The stories she tells focus on the people of McDowell: Why they’ve stayed or why they plan to leave, what they need and how they plan to get it, what they’ve lost over the years and what they’ve been able to keep. The project aims “to communicate the issues of rural America through the eyes, voices and ideas of Southern West Virginia,” according to McMillion.

In its native form, the documentary lives on a media-rich website stuffed with images, ambient sounds, and video and responds to the scrolling of your mouse. It’s beautiful and dense, like the stories themselves. It’s good to see a website created about a rural place that doesn’t dumb anything down, going the opposite way instead. That said, readers who don’t have a fast Internet connection may have some trouble with the interactive site because of bandwidth it requires. If you live in an area with poor access to broadband, you may want to watch the videos in a more linear way on McMillion’s personal website.

Obama Visits Micropolitan Cities. President Obama spoke in two small cities Wednesday, first in Galesburg, Illinois, and then in Warrensburg, Missouri. Both are micropolitan areas – cities of fewer than 50,000 residents that lie outside metropolitan areas.

Though the president’s remarks on the economy didn’t deal with anything overtly rural, his comments about the future of the American economy should have special resonance for smaller communities that are wondering how they are going to develop their economies.

“Businesses of tomorrow will not locate near old roads and outdated ports,” Obama said in Galesburg. “They’ll relocate to places with high-speed Internet and high-tech schools and systems that move air and auto traffic faster.”

Galesburg and Warrensburg are somewhat special cases economically. Since they are college towns, they get a little buffering from economic downtowns. Nonetheless, Galesburg is still about 1,300 jobs below its pre-2007-recession employment levels. And the county went into the recession with significant job losses already in place because of the 2004 closing of a Maytag plant and a metal building factory.

Warrensburg, Missouri, is about 900 jobs below its 2007 employment levels.

Obama sounded a populist tone in his remarks. “Even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, nearly all the income gains of the past 10 years have continued to flow to the top 1%,” he said in Galesburg. “The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40% since 2009, but the average American earns less than he or she did in 1999. This growing inequality isn’t just morally wrong — it’s bad economics.”

We might add – again – that the jobs that are returning in the U.S. economy appear to be clustering in metropolitan areas. Ninety percent of the jobs that are still missing from the U.S. economy are located outside metropolitan counties.

Wisconsin Expands Medical Program That Goes to Farmers. A Wisconsin rural medical program that takes healthcare directly to farmers is expanding into a fourth county. The Rural Health Initiative will begin serving Marathon County this fall, leaders say. The program currently serves Outagamie, Shawano and  Waupaca and Shawano counties, in the east-central part of the state. Here’s how it works:

The idea to take health care directly to the farmers came from the families themselves, [Rhonda] Strebel, [executive director,] said. “Farmers tend to be isolated and everyone comes to them – the milk truck, the vet, suppliers and more – so it just made sense to go to them,” she said. “Farmers are busy and many of them are committed to their work that they don’t always think about their own health,”

During the first visit, the nurse will take blood samples and run a quick set of tests that test cholesterol and glucose levels and measure blood pressure and determine body mass index to determine if the person is overweight. “It’s just like the health risk assessment tests many people receive at work as part of their insurance coverage,” Strebel said.

The nurse goes over the results and then talks about basic health issues, such as getting more exercise, safety issues, eating healthfully and more. If the tests reveal any concerns, such as high blood pressure, the nurse helps them connect with a medical provider if they don’t have one they regularly see. “Since the lab work has already been done, it doesn’t need to be redone at the doctor’s office and they won’t incur those costs,” Strebel said.

Media about Native America. Vision Maker Media is launching a new website as part of its changeover from its old name, Native American Public Telecommunications. Vision Maker is a nonprofit media company that is the “nation’s leader in the creation, promotion, and distribution of Native media.”

The new site contains video, audio, TV listings, funding notices and other information on Native issues and Native media.

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