Program designed to help rural counties collaborate to target key industries
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) is teaming up with the Nevada office of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development (USDA RD) and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development on a new program to help Nevada rural counties plan their economic futures.
The Stronger Economies Together (SET) program will combine the community development expertise of UNCE faculty with detailed planning data to help eight rural Nevada counties collaborate on regional economic development.
Sarah Adler, the Nevada State Director for USDA RD, said the SET initiative dovetails with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s economic development plan for the state.
“The Governor understands that a regional approach is critical to reaching his goal of bringing 50,000 new jobs to Nevada by 2014,” Adler said. “The SET program we’ve launched with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Cooperative Extension will give these diverse counties the tools they need to allow them to grow those jobs themselves or work together to attract the industries that will bring them. ”
The eight Nevada counties that will be collaborating on the pilot project in Nevada include Carson City and Douglas, Lyon, Storey, Mineral, Pershing, Storey and Humboldt counties. Representatives from the eight areas will work with Extension experts to analyze the detailed economic data and draw a blueprint for future economic initiatives.
Nevada USDA RD public affairs specialist Kelly Clark said the regional team will have access to economic data from the USDA that none of the individual counties would be able to afford on their own.
“Their analysis might show that some of the counties in their region may have manufacturing clusters while another part of the region has a transportation hub and that the two can work together,” Clark said. “They’ll be able to learn how to leverage their strengths into new opportunities.”
Adler noted that a Brookings study recently commissioned by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development identified seven target industries suited to Nevada. The SET program will provide the new eight-county regional planning team the data it needs to determine how the counties’ assets align with those industries.
Cooperative Extension Dean and Director Karen Hinton said the regional team will be working with UNCE’s Buddy Borden, an economic development specialist; Marlene Rebori, a specialist in community and organizational development; Carl Dahlen, Extension’s leadership specialist; Tom Harris, Extension specialist in economic development and director of the University Center for Economic Development; and Steve Lewis, Extension educator.
“Our faculty bring a diverse knowledge base to the planning table,” Hinton said. “We have a long history of working hand in glove with rural communities, so we’re eager to help them forge their economic future.”
Dahlen, who has been conducting community assessments in collaboration with the Nevada Rural Development Council and helping Nevada towns set development goals in recent years, said the SET program is an excellent training program.
“It helps communities work with other communities to combine assets and challenges to see where they are connected and how they can work together,” Dahlen said.
Clark said one thing other states in the SET program have learned is that one county’s gain is not another county’s loss. As a result, regions have found working together benefits all counties involved.
UNCE has a strong track record of helping communities expand and diversify their economic base. Dahlen, for instance, works with a variety of UNCE faculty on community assessments. When a community requests an assessment, a team goes to town and conducts a series of “listening sessions” with various community groups, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and prepares a report to help communities plan their futures. The teams have completed 12 assessments in the last three years.
The SET in Nevada will launch on Feb. 16 in Fallon, where the regional planning team will meet for the first time. The counties involved are all members of the Western Nevada Development District, and team members will include elected officials, senior county staffers, economic development experts, private business leaders, representatives from area school districts and experts in workforce development.
Cooperative Extension is the college that extends knowledge from the University of Nevada to local communities to address important issues. Faculty and staff reached hundreds of thousands of Nevada citizens last year with research-based information on agriculture, horticulture, natural resources, health and nutrition, community development and children, youth and families.