Stronger Economies Together:

Strategies for Building New Economic Opportunities

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION DOCUMENT
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE RURAL COUNTY POPULATION CHART

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is a central tenet of regional economic development efforts. This notion, that a local economic development effort working in conjunction with other local economic development efforts, has more to gain from collaboration than going it alone is prevalent in rural economies that do not benefit from agglomeration economies of urban centers. One approach of reflecting on this is to consider cluster development as a driver of economic growth. Industry clusters consist of similar industries, or industries contributing to the production of similar outputs, that are located in proximity. What constitutes proximity is an area small enough that distance does not hinder trade. A scan of businesses within a small geographic area will likely overlook key clusters in the region, as some members will be just outside the defined region. Approaching economic development from a regional perspective broadens the scope of potential synergies.

The USDA Rural Development recognizes the importance of building collaborative economic development across regions to capitalize on cross-regional strengths. Broadening the decision and planning region to encompass economic regions rather than political regions expands the opportunities and resources for economic growth. The USDA Rural Development, with the Regional Rural Development Centers, established the Stronger Economies Together curriculum for multi-regional economic development planning.

The USDA Stronger Economies Together project is a collaborative project of university researchers and economic development practitioners applying concepts, tools, and approaches of building collaborative regional economic development curricula. The resulting curriculum provides an integrative approach to assessing, composing and executing a regional economic development plan that capitalizes on the assets and complies with the goals of the region.

Stronger Economies Together provides economic development practitioners the tools and insights necessary for identifying multi-jurisdictional opportunities for collaboration, building support for multi-regional collaboration and cooperative planning for regional development. The curricula covers five sessions outlined below.

Session 1: Collaborative Regional Economic Development

  • Defining and understanding key aspects of economic development
  • Exploring significant trends impacting economic development
  • Making the case for conducting a regional strategy
  • Defining a region
  • Thinking regionally: identifying appropriate partners and data
Session 2: Building Blocks of a Strong Region
  • Exploring the basic concepts of competitive advantage
  • Examining approaches to analyzing regional connections
  • Gaining an overview of tools & data for detecting regional competitive advantages
  • Understanding of the foundations of regional planning
  • Understanding the building blocks of local wealth creation
Session 3: Leading the Planning Effort
  • Creating an effective leadership team
  • Crafting the call to action: motivating your leadership team
  • Engaging your communities
  • Overcoming obstacles
Session 4: Uncovering Assets & Challenges
  • Discovering Regional Strengths
  • Examining internal and external forces in your region
  • Defining regional goals, priorities and strategies: a step by step approach
Session 5: Measurement and Evaluation
  • Defining results based accountability
  • Sustaining initiatives by using available funding opportunities
  • Developing outcome metrics to evaluate project success
  • Reporting regional economic development outcomes
Under this program, State Training Teams made up of Missouri Rural Development and University of Missouri Extension specialists will provide training and technical assistance to largely rural counties that are interested in working together on a regional basis or wish to strengthen the effectiveness of an existing regional development effort. Each region must encompass two or more counties and the population must be 51% or more rural and/or geographic area of the region must be at least 75% rural (see below for more detailed explanation). Your current or potential region can cross state lines, but it too must consist of mostly rural people and/or geographic areas that are classified as rural.

List of Benefits for the Successful Applicant
Two regions in each identified state will be part of the SET program. Each selected region will receive a number of important benefits including:

  • Twenty-hours of valuable training on the Stronger Economies Together program, an effort that offers important information and guidance on ways to strengthen and enhance your regional economic development activities.
  • Key data tailored to your region that can help your regional team examine the critical drivers of your economy (and emerging economic sectors) and determine where your region might hold a comparative edge in the domestic and/or international marketplace.
  • Tools that can help you uncover the variety of assets and resources that exists in your region that can contribute to your region’s economic activities.
  • Technical assistance and educational support from Extension educators, Missouri USDA RD staff, and appropriate Regional Rural Development Centers and other partners for the one-year period of your project.
  • Webinars with the other 15 selected regions, enabling you to share information and gather ideas/insights from peers located across the country.
  • The value of these benefits will be in excess of $15,000 per region.

Definition of Rural
Regions wishing to apply for the SET program should be composed of two or more counties. The intent of this initiative is to select regions that are made up, in large part, of nonmetro areas (be they micro and/or noncore counties). A metro county can be included in a region, but the region must meet the rural requirement. This can be demonstrated by documenting that the region meets the “rural’ requirement.

Begin by identifying the metro, micropolitan, and noncore designation of each county that is included in your region (see the list provided at the end of the application and the attached “County Rural Population” document). It is recommended that your region be made up mostly of nonmetro (micro and/or noncore) counties, if at all possible.

Next, the region must meet one of the following “rural’ conditions: (1) 51% or more of your region’s total population must be rural; OR (2) 75% of the region’s land area must be located in rural areas of that region. The Census Bureau has the rural population for each county/parish (see the document County Rural Population”) while the percent of a region’s land area located in rural areas is available from the OSEDA site (http://mcdc2.missouri.edu/websas/geocorr2k.html If you require assistance in securing information on the portion of the region’s land mass that is rural, please contact Sharon Gulick at 573-884-0669 or 882-5525; email GulickS@missouri.edu.

Here is an example of how to document the “rural” status of your region. Assume the following region was planning to submit an application to be considered for the SET program. The region is made up of three counties.

County Metro Status 2000 2000 Population 2000 Rural Population Percent Population Rural
CallawayMetro40,76625,14562%
MontgomeryNoncore12,13612,136100%
AudrainMicropolitan25,85310,94042%
Total 78,75548,22162%

As you can see, this configuration includes one metropolitan county, but its population is actually predominately rural. The total population for the proposed region is 78,755, of which 48,221 is rural (62%). So, it meets the rural population criterion that is necessary for a region to be considered for the SET program.

Use this same approach as you configure your proposed region.

Definition of Rural
Regions wishing to apply for the SET program should be composed of two or more counties. The intent of this initiative is to select regions that are made up, in large part, of nonmetro areas (be they micro and/or noncore counties). A metro county can be included in a region, but the region must meet the rural requirement. This can be demonstrated by documenting that the region meets the “rural’ requirement.

Begin by identifying the metro, micropolitan, and noncore designation of each county that is included in your region (see the list provided at the end of the application and the attached “County Rural Population” document). It is recommended that your region be made up mostly of nonmetro (micro and/or noncore) counties, if at all possible.

Next, the region must meet one of the following “rural’ conditions: (1) 51% or more of your region’s total population must be rural; OR (2) 75% of the region’s land area must be located in rural areas of that region. The Census Bureau has the rural population for each county/parish (see the document County Rural Population”) while the percent of a region’s land area located in rural areas is available from the OSEDA site (http://mcdc2.missouri.edu/websas/geocorr2k.html If you require assistance in securing information on the portion of the region’s land mass that is rural, please contact Sharon Gulick at 573-884-0669 or 882-5525; email GulickS@missouri.edu.

  • Applications are due electronically no later than May 3, 2010 (by 11:59 pm Central Time) to GulickS@missouri.edu. You will receive an acknowledgement of your application within 36 hours. We urge all applicants to contact us immediately if you have not received an acknowledgement within the 36 hour time period.
  • The RFP application is a fillable PDF document. We recommend that you save the document to your computer and make changes and edits. Occasionally you may receive an error message when you select “Save” but check your computer, it has probably saved anyway.
  • When submitting the document, please be sure to name it in a way that represents your region.
  • Site visits will be scheduled with the strongest applicants by mid-May.
  • Final decisions on the TWO regions in this state to be part of the SET initiative will be announced by June 8, 2010.

A conference call will be held on Tuesday, April 13th from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. to answer any questions potential applicants may have. The call in number is 760-569-0111 and participant access code is: 210702#.

All applications will be carefully reviewed by the SET State Partner Team. The team is composed of representatives of the Missouri USDA Rural Development, University of Missouri Extension, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Department of Economic Development, US Department of Commerce/EDA, and the Missouri Economic Development Council (MEDC). National USDA RD office and North Central Regional Center for Rural Development personnel will also provide input.

Participation Cost
While there is no participation fee, the applicant is expected to provide in-kind assistance through meeting space, assistance with meeting notifications and to cover the cost of refreshments and meals during the training. Participating regions are also expected to develop and implement a regional plan. The table on page 7 includes a place to indicate financial support—this is important as it demonstrates that the region will have resources available to develop and implement their plan.

Questions?
If you have any questions about the application process, please contact any one of the following individuals:

  • Sharon Gulick, University of Missouri Extension, GulickS@missouri.edu, 573-884-0669 or 573-239-8241
  • Greg Batson, USDA-RD, Gregory.batson@mo.usda.gov or 573-624-5939
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION DOCUMENT
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE RURAL COUNTY POPULATION CHART