USDA: Regional economic development planning targets rural counties

Contact: Kelly Edwards
(715) 701-2741
[email protected]

STEVENS POINT, WI – March 30, 2016 – – – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Wisconsin State Director Stan Gruszynski and University of Wisconsin (UW) Extension Dean and Director Rick Klemme announced today the Stronger Economies Together (SET) program is seeking applications from rural communities wanting to strengthen existing regional development efforts. Today’s announcement is a part of the Department’s efforts to strengthen rural economies by providing training and technical assistance.

The SET program is a collaborative initiative between UW Extension and USDA Rural Development. The program will help interested communities work together to develop and implement a regional economic development strategy or plan. One region in Wisconsin will be awarded the opportunity to receive training and technical assistance delivered by a core team of UW-Extension and USDA staff.

In making the announcement Gruszynski said, “Wisconsin is deservin gof this investment by USDA. We have a history and tradition of institutional collaboration going back to the Progressive Era. The SET program will help rural communities move forward by promoting economic stability and job creation.”

“This initiative fits squarely with the increasing emphasis being placed on regional and asset-based community development across Cooperative Extension’s programs and counties,” noted Klemme.

By becoming a SET region the communities will receive the following support:

Twenty-hours of valuable training on the SET program and guidance on ways to strengthen and enhance regional economic development activities.

Key data tailored to each region will be provided to help the regional team examine the critical drive of its economy and emerging economic sectors that may determine if that particular region might hold a comparative edge in the domestic and/or the international marketplace.

Tools that can help uncover the variety of assets and resources that exists in that region that can contribute to the region’s economic activities.

Technical assistance and educational support from UW Extension educators, USDA Rural Development staff, and appropriate Regional Rural Development Centers for the one-year period of the project.

Webinars with the other selected regions in the U.S., thus enabling the sharing of information and gathering of ideas from other rural communities across the country.
For questions, additional information, or to request an application, contact Greg Wise, UW- Extension Center for Community and Economic Development at [email protected] or (608) 265-8136.

Applications are due electronically no later than April 15, 2016 (by 11:59 pm Central Standard Time).

All applications will be carefully reviewed by the SET State Partner Team. The team is composed of representatives of the Wisconsin USDA Rural Development, UW Extension Service, and other key economic development organizations or agencies in the state. National USDA Rural Development office and Regional Rural Development Center personnel will also provide input.

During the past year, USDA Rural Development invested nearly $577 million throughout rural Wisconsin and helped a record number of residents receive funding for economic development projects and quality of life improvements. The agency’s investment in Wisconsin 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. For more information on USDA Rural Development programs visit USDA’s web site at