SRDC and MSU partners secure more than $1 million federal job creation grant

The Southern Rural Development Center is one of five Mississippi State University centers collaborating for a $1,065,000 federal Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grant to spur job creation and economic growth across the state.

MSU's project will focus on 61 counties that define the combined Delta and Appalachian regions of the state. The program targets the creation and retention of more than 500 jobs, with an accompanying economic development impact of more than $30 million including private investment and cost savings. Strategies will target the growth of Mississippi's major economic clusters, such as the automotive, furniture and agri-business industries.

Along with the SRDC, MSU's Rural Jobs Accelerator Coalition is comprised of key personnel from the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension, the Franklin Furniture Institute, the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer. The Department of Agricultural Economics will support the initiative, and the Mississippi Development Authority is an additional partner.

Economic development partnerships and initiatives in 12 states are receiving awards from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

To accomplish the goals, the program has four priorities: strengthening communities, expanding clusters, growing companies and developing entrepreneurs. SRDC activities will focus on strengthening communities' strategic planning processes, enhancing leadership skills, and promoting a robust entrepreneurial environment through its Stronger Economies Together (SET) program. The SRDC also will help leverage an initiative to increase broadband penetration in rural areas.

"The Center is proud to be a part of this MSU coalition as we work to strengthen our state's economy," said SRDC Director Bo Beaulieu. "Our SET program, which is now in place in more than 26 states, will continue to enable Mississippi communities and counties to work together on a regional basis to develop an economic development blueprint that strategically builds on their current and emerging economic strengths."

APLU member Universities Contribute to Knowledge about What Works for Rural Broadband Access

A recently published Theme issue of the Journal Choices features faculty from APLU member universities and describes how they are working in their communities to expand access to rural broadband, evaluate broadband efforts, and scale approaches that work.

The publication, entitled “Making it Count: Applying Science to Support Universal Broadband” was edited by APLU Strategic Advisor for Economic and Community Development Sheila Martin. It includes articles from faculty of APLU member universities including Oklahoma State University, Washington State University, Purdue University, University of Missouri, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Georgia Tech, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Clemson University, and Penn State University.

Expanded investments in rural broadband will only be effective if guided by accurate data, community-driven planning, engaged research, and successful models. This issue explores how to apply the best information and processes to guide effective investments of limited resources to expand access.

The issue is the result of two virtual conferences supported by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture that intentionally paired university faculty with Cooperative Extension to ensure connectivity between research and extension in the area of rural broadband. The issue is the result of two virtual conferences supported by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture that intentionally paired university faculty with Cooperative Extension to ensure connectivity between research and extension in the area of rural broadband. The content was guided by an advisory committee including Monica Babine, Wendy Fink, Robert Gallardo, Sascha Meinrath, Rachel Welborn, Brian Whitacre, and Milan Ephraim.

Bridging the Digital Divide in Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities in the South Individual Digital Capital Survey Results

Recently a survey was conducted to better understand digital disparities among socio-economically disadvantaged groups in the South. To learn more about this project visit the Bridging the Digital Divide landing page and findings from the survey, see the final report.

Southern Region Indicators: Standard and COVID-19 Impacts

Each year, indicators are collected from states in the Southern Region to show the collective impact of Extension community development programs. The collected and compiled highlights show the jobs created, grants awarded, plans new and revised for community development, and networking connections made throughout the previous year. Short vignettes also provide insights behind the metrics. In addition to this report, states also provided COVID-19 response impacts to show how each has continued to navigate through the challenges of the pandemic.


Joy Moten-Thomas Named the 2022 Bonnie Teater Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

The Southern Rural Development Center is proud to honor Ms. Joy Moten-Thomas as the 2022 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Moten-Thomas has over 25 years of experience working with diverse minority audiences, inclusive of youth and adults throughout Georgia.

In support of Ms. Moten-Thomas’ nomination, Dr. Mark Latimore, Associate Dean of the Cooperative Extension Program, at Fort Valley State University, stated, “She carries herself with dignity and respect and represents our program with this same regard at the national, state, and local levels.” Furthermore, Ms. Doris Evans-Gates, Manager of the Georgia WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs at the Georgia Department of Health, stated, “[Ms. Moten-Thomas] has been extremely instrumental in increasing the visibility of the Fort Valley State University Cooperative Extension Program and fostering community development and partnerships throughout the state. Her dedication and efforts are invaluable to the farm community and our program recipients.”

Full Press Release

RRDCs Continue to Celebrate Year-long 50th Anniversary with Proclamations from NACDEP and SAAS

The National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) and the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) recently released proclamations in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Regional Rural Development Centers and their significant contributions and continuous leadership role of rural America.

The Southern Rural Development Center is thankful to both organizations for their national and regional support to the center.
Each proclamation can be found via the SRDC website, here: NACDEP PROCLAMATION & SAAS PROCLAMATION

Phase II of the Listening Sessions Initiative for Rural Community, Economic, and Workforce Development

An interactive data dashboard has been launched where users can explore data from Investing in Rural Recovery, a report on findings from the Regional Rural Development Centers’ (RRDCs) survey of rural development stakeholders. The dashboard was created in collaboration with the Extension Foundation. Users can combine and display results in a variety of ways.

Virtual listening sessions have also now been completed. These sessions represent Phase II of the RRDC initiative and brought together stakeholders for facilitated dialogue to identify critical investment opportunities. Eight sessions were held in total, with themes for discussion informed by the survey’s results. Four regional sessions identified high priority investments across research, Extension, and other capacities for the topic areas most important to the given region. In addition, four nation-wide listening sessions were conducted on cross-cutting issues. These covered the topics of: Broadband and the Digital Divide; Community Planning, Leadership, and Governance; Rural Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Workforce Development, Training, and Education. Following analysis of findings from these facilitated discussions, an overall report will be generated, reviewed, and disseminated to stakeholders. Updates can be found on the Listening Session landing page.

Rachel Welborn Awarded Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) Diversity, Inclusion Award

Recenlty, the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning celebrated Black History Month by holding its annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards ceremony. The IHL Board of Trustees recognized 10 employees from the state’s four-year public universities for their campus and community leadership.

Rachel Welborn, Associate Director of the Southern Rural Develompent Center, was awarded a 2022 IHL Diversity and Inclusion Award for helping identify pressing rural development concerns and facilitating responses in the state, region and nation on critical issues, including poverty, disasters, workforce development, racial reconciliation and internet availability.

To read the full press release, click here

SRDC and 1890 Partners Receive AFRI Rural and Economic Development Grant Funding for Bridging the Digital Divide in Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities in the South Project

Vital to Rural Economic Development (AFRI's Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities priority) is equitable digital access. Digital equity means all individuals have digital (internet) capacity needed for full participation in our society and economy. Digital equity is essential for economic viability and quality of life.

This project's goal is to identify and address digital equity challenges facing socio-economically disadvantaged (SED) communities in the Southern Region. Through research, the project will identify unique challenges facing SED communities along with the capacity of the 1890 Extension Service to respond. Extension will develop and pilot SED-responsive approaches to building digital capacity in partnership with 1890 Extension.

SRDC’s Rachel Welborn and Dr. John Green, are pleased to be partnering with Dorothy Brandon, Alabama A&M University; Travella Free, Kentucky State University; Roberto Gallardo, Perdue University; Sanjun Gu, North Carolina A&T State University; Jimmy Henry, Prairie View A&M University; and Terrence Wolfork, Fort Valley A&M University.

The four Regional Rural Development Centers Kickoff Year-long 50th Anniversary Celebration with Announcement

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Rural Development Act. Among its many outcomes, the Act led to the creation of the nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs). To help kick-off the year-long celebration, the RRDCs were joined by two key partner organizations, who each took actions formally recognizing the Centers’ significant contributions over the past 50 years and anticipating their leadership role in the continued vibrancy of rural America. The Board on Agriculture Assembly (BAA) Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy (ESCOP), which provide leadership and governance to the Cooperative Extension System and the State Agricultural Experiment Stations, respectively, each voted on the recognition at recent meetings. Hear more from ECOP and ESCOP’s leadership and help us celebrate! 

Passed into law on August 30, 1972, the Rural Development Act of 1972 consolidated multiple rural development initiatives into a single piece of legislation and ultimately led to the creation of America's four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs). The RRDCs play a vital connecting role in rural America, linking the research and educational outreach capacity of the nation's public universities with communities, local decision-makers, entrepreneurs, families, and farmers and ranchers to help address a wide range of rural development issues.

The Centers will be hosting additional programs throughout the year to highlight the successes and impacts of their first 50 years of service to Rural America, and to prepare for the emerging opportunities and challenges of the future.

The country’s four Regional Rural Development Centers are:

Learn more about the Regional Rural Development Centers at: https://rrdc.usu.edu/

Listening Sessions Report: Investing in Rural Recovery

The nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) recently released Investing in Rural Recovery: Findings from a Rapid Assessment of Stakeholder Priorities for Rural Development from a national survey.

The survey, conducted in the fall of 2021, is part of an ongoing Listening Session Initiative aimed to identify key priorities, capacities, expansion, and valued programming that resulted in the eight critical topic areas for rural communities. This initial report marks the close of the first stage in the consultative feedback process. The second phase, in March and April of 2022, will provide a basis for a series of facilitated dialogues.

Click to View the Full Report