USDA and UW Extension: Provide training and technical assistance for regional economic development in Wisconsin

Contact: Kelly Edwards
[email protected]

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development and the University of Wisconsin (UW) Cooperative Extension announced today that 7 Rivers Alliance, located in La Crosse, WI, has been selected to participate in a joint program providing training and technical assistance in supporting a regional economic development strategy.

The program, Stronger Economies Together (SET), is designed to help strengthen the capacity of communities and counties in rural America by focusing on collaboration across a multi-county area to create and implement a regional plan. The 7 Rivers Alliance SET project region consists of Monroe, Juneau, and Jackson Counties.

“A regional approach to economic development helps identify opportunities and manage challenges that may otherwise be beyond the grasp of a single community or governmental entity,” said Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development Wisconsin State Director. “When you give regional and community leaders access to economic and strategic development training, it improves the likelyhood of positive outcomes. Working collaboratively and cooperatively, spurs development and creates opportunity. That is the purpose of the SET program.”

The 7 Rivers Alliance will benefit from this focused initiative to explore regional economic advantages. A blueprint will be developed and implemented for the region that strategically builds on the current and emerging economic strengths of the area.

UW Extension will play an important role in providing guidance to 7 Rivers Alliance and the selected region. A core team from UW Extension and USDA Rural Development staff will serve on a State Resource Team (SRT) to provide leadership and facilitation during the SET process.

“A committed team from across the state is prepared to provide guidance, instruction, and in-depth data tailored to the designated SET region as they develop goals and strategies for the future,” said Rick Klemme, University of Wisconsin (UW) Extension Dean and Director.

Over the course of the twelve month training program, the regional team will provide step-by-step coaching to guide the design and implementation of a practical and viable regional economic development plan based on the analysis of regional demographics, opportunities, and assets and barriers. Training and technical assistance and will be provided by the SRT, as well as state-wide and area resource providers and experts.

Launched in 2010, the SET Program is provided through a partnership between USDA Rural Development, the Purdue Center for Regional Development, and the nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers and their land grant university partners, including UW Extension. SET is now established in more than 75 regions in 32 states.

USDA Rural Development’s funding continues to have a dramatic impact on rural communities across Wisconsin. During the past year, USDA Rural Development invested nearly $577 million on essential public facilities, small and emerging businesses, water and sewer systems, and housing opportunities throughout rural Wisconsin. The agency’s investment helped create or retain more than 1,560 jobs; aided 3,000 families in buying their own homes; and assisted more than 80 communities in improving community facilities and upgrading local infrastructure. USDA Rural Development’s mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents.