Arkansas State University’s Delta Center for Economic Development has a new tool to develop rural community economies in Northeast Arkansas. It will receive a $564,240 federal grant over a five-year period to support the University Center Economic Development Program, Delta Center interim Executive Director Andrea Allen told Talk Business & Politics. The money will come from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and will be matched by ASU.
“The Delta Center is extremely excited about this award,” Allen said. “The EDA University Center designation will assist the Delta Center with matching the resources of Arkansas State to the needs of the region’s communities and small towns.”
The program will essentially be an “arm” of the Delta Center, she said. A program director will be hired and then an internal assessment of what resources the university has to offer rural communities. Hiring a director and the assessment could take up to nine months to complete, she added. The focus of the program will be direct technical assistance from the university to both public and private sector entities, and the dissemination of applied research in support of economic development programs and projects.
Once the assessment is complete, a catalog of these resources will be formulated. The catalog will detail what ASU has to offer communities. Economic impact analysis will be done, Allen said. Some communities might need help with Web site development, while others might need an interpreter to help with a foreign industry prospect. Other entrepreneurial resources such as how to apply for a patent will be offered, too. Industry needs in the region will be assessed and what types of workforce training
The program will focus on communities surrounding Jonesboro and Paragould and will extend to 12 counties including Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, Mississippi, Poinsett, Randolph, Sharp, and St. Francis.
“A-State has long been the catalyst for progress in the Delta and Mid-South region,” Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “Recent examples include the opening of the A-State Innovation System in 2017 and the collaboration with the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) to establish its College of Osteopathic Medicine on the A-State campus. A-State, through the EDA University Center program, should become the core of this outreach program, connecting resources of A-State to small towns and fostering the creation of new economy jobs.”
Announced in May, this year’s competition was open to higher education institutions and consortia of accredited institutions in states supported by EDA’s Austin and Denver regional offices.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the grantees. The EDA is providing a total of $2.5 million in grants to 20 colleges and universities in 13 states to run programs that will leverage their assets to promote American innovation and strengthen regional economies.
“Colleges and universities play a vital role in support of locally-devised economic development strategies,” Ross said. “These institutions will work to build the public-private partnerships that are critical to helping America stay competitive in the 21st century.”