Helping Rural Communities Help Themselves
Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) play a unique role in USDA’s service to rural America. With NIFA funding, RRDCs help rural communities across the country find innovative ways to capitalize on their local strengths. The four RRDCs are located at Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, Penn State University, and Utah State University. Through a guided process, more than 400 counties in 38 states have discovered new ways to work together to grow their economies. Stronger Economies Together (SET) is a joint partnership between NIFA, USDA’S Rural Development, the RRDCs, and the Cooperative Extension System that brings together regions of three or more neighboring rural counties to identify their collective economic strengths, develop an action plan, and build on those assets to find a competitive edge for economic growth. To date, the 84 regions participating in SET have leveraged more than $588 million in funding to support their plans. Caddo, Custer, Washita, and Beckham counties, Oklahoma, contended with the economic devastation of a local military base closure. With the help of their RRDC, the community decided to take the empty airstrip and repackage it as a prime location for unmanned aerial vehicle research and development. By taking an underused resource and redirecting it to fit a niche need, the region opened the doors to a rapidly expanding new industrial market.
NIFA originally published this impact in the NIFA 2016 Annual Report. Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.