Purdue News

October 17, 2005

Federal government awards grant for southern regional competitiveness

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – With support from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, the U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded the Purdue University Center for Regional Development and the Indiana University Indiana Business Research Center a $425,500 grant.

The Governor's Office of Federal Grants and Procurement helped coordinate this effort. One part of the grant will fund applied research and outreach to help a rural region in southern Indiana near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center assess its regional economic competitiveness and develop strategies for rural growth. The grant is one of only two awarded as part of the EDA's nationally competitive grant process. The other grant was presented to the Monitor Group that draws expertise from Michael Porter and his colleagues at the Harvard Business School.

The centers will work with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Indiana Economic Development Corp. and the Indiana Office of Rural Affairs on the project, for which Gov. Daniels wrote a letter of support.

"Both Purdue University and Indiana University are key partners in our state's economic future and have a long history of working on applied research and outreach efforts in the area of economic development, including rural and regional economic development," Daniels said. "With this opportunity, we will bring together the relevant resources of two premier public research universities with the resources of key state agencies and the private and nonprofit sectors. There is no better place than Indiana as the home for this applied research that will have national implications."

Skillman, who also serves as Indiana's secretary of agriculture and rural development, said, "This is a great opportunity to help Indiana's rural communities reach their full potential. We see many young people leaving small communities for college never to return. What we want to do is create an atmosphere in which they want to come back home to live and work. This project is a great beginning in our effort to create opportunities and jobs in rural Indiana."

The first phase of the project is national in scope and will involve building a database, through which researchers will analyze:

• Links among business clusters, rural areas and economic performance.

• Spatial clustering of rural industries and their economic interaction with metropolitan regions.

• Growth trajectories for counties that differ in their amount of industry, rural area and distance to larger cities.

Sam Cordes, co-director of Purdue's Center for Regional Development, said the state of Indiana's Office of Rural Affairs committed $200,000 to the project.

"This project serves as a good example that Purdue, IU and the state of Indiana are strong partners in economic development," Cordes said. "We look forward to working closely with the Office of Rural Affairs and Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman to strategically examine rural development in southern Indiana."

The Indiana Business Research Center has been an integral part of IU's Kelley School of Business for eight decades. IBRC director Jerry Conover said the collaboration between the two universities will benefit everyone involved.

"Purdue's new Center for Regional Development and the 80-year-old Indiana Business Research Center are the state's newest and oldest research centers that address regional economic development," Conover said. "They each bring strong experience and complementary skills to the partnership. The Indiana Business Research Center's extensive experience in organizing and analyzing economic and demographic data will prove invaluable in building a database for this project that will be used by other researchers and economic development organizations throughout the nation. The Purdue Center for Regional Development will lend expertise to devise new models for understanding the economies of rural regions."

After the first phase of the study is complete, the research team will assemble focus groups, distribute surveys and interview business leaders in the Crane region, which includes Brown, Greene, Monroe, Owen, Daviess, Lawrence, Martin and Orange counties.

"This is the region identified by Gov. Daniels' office as having great potential for regional economic development," Cordes said. "We will assess the quality of the region's business environment and prepare an inventory of assets that can be leveraged to help the eight-county area expand economically."

The research team will ask for input from several constituencies in the community to supplement the data. Elected officials, business owners, educators, planning agencies, local economic development organizations and social service agencies all will play a significant role. Researchers also will seek support from Purdue Cooperative Extension Service educators and leaders involved with the Southern Indiana Regional Development Project.

"This plan will focus on southern Indiana's strengths and the assets it offers to foster job growth in innovative industry clusters," Conover said. "The focus will be on identifying jobs with strong earnings and solid potential for growth."

The grant-funded work is expected to conclude by 2007. Follow-up work and implementation by local leaders will continue. The Center for Regional Development will make recommendations to the Economic Development Administration on how other rural regions throughout the United States can assess their own competitive regional advantages.

Purdue's Center for Regional Development also recently was designated by the EDA as its university center for Indiana and received a separate grant of $164,119. The grant will support Purdue's Technical Assistance Program and Purdue Cooperative Extension in assisting local businesses and industries in five counties served by the River Hills Economic Development District. The counties include Scott, Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Washington.

The grant also will provide networking and related assistance to Indiana's Certified Technology Parks and training opportunities for community strategic planning. The grant was submitted in partnership with the Indiana Association of Regional Councils.

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704, mforbes@purdue.edu

Sources: Sam Cordes, (765) 494-7273, smcordes@purdue.edu

Jerry Conover, (812) 824-9089, conover@indiana.edu

Vickie Gardner, press secretary for Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, (317) 232-4789, vgardner@lg.in.gov

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

 

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