How Economic Developers Engage with Extension

Sep 6, 2017 | News, Newsletter |

Nancy Bowen Ellzey, CEcD.
Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Community Economics.
OSU Extension Community Development.

Extension has long been an economic development partner involved in a wide range of issues, from water quality and agricultural practices to retail and energy. Since passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, extension has provided outreach and non-formal education to strengthen lives and communities across the country.

Over the last century, extension has continued its’ original mission to extend university resources while also adapting to changing times, as they address a wide range of needs in both urban and rural areas. Extension can be found in all 50 states, with about 2,900 offices nationwide. In Ohio, over 700 extension professionals staff offices within all 88 counties, in addition to numerous regional and state offices, to provide extension services for communities, businesses, and organizations of any size and location.

How do local economic development organizations (EDOs) find out about and engage with extension? Typically, they hear about services and contact extension directly, or extension professionals reach out through workshops and forums about their programs and resources. Extension professionals are frequent speakers at a variety of conferences and meetings at the local, state, and national levels. EDOs are also often in contact with extension professionals as co-members on boards of community and economic development organizations.

Extension has partnered with EDOs on just about every imaginable economic development function. In Ohio, extension was an early adopter of business retention and expansion practices, developing one of the first formal BR&E programs. Since 1986, the Ohio State University Extension’s BR&E Program has developed capacity of community leaders via more than 140 programs in 77 Ohio counties, in both urban and suburban areas.

In terms of workforce development, OSU’s STEM Pathways program aims to increase youth curiosity, logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and team communication abilities, to ensure tomorrow’s workforce is highly skilled and globally competitive. Extension professionals teach the STEM program curriculum directly to students and in a train-the-trainer format for the teachers who will then deliver the program.

Energy development, including renewables and shale gas, is a focus area for extension. New programs have been developed to help businesses and communities assess the costs and benefits of energy development. The commissioners of Wyandot County recently enlisted extension to conduct a survey of residents and land owners on their feelings toward wind farm development. Survey findings enabled the county commissioners to decide whether wind development was a good fit for the county.

Most of extension’s work is research-based, involving collecting, compiling, and analyzing original data through surveys, focus groups, and other outreach techniques. For instance, extension professionals implement a variety of qualitative and quantitative tools to help communities better understand their local economy’s trends and conditions.

The Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) and Retail Market Analysis (RMA) programs are good examples. Both programs help communities measure change in their local economies to guide decision-making. Extension professionals recently completed an EIA project to estimate the impact of tourism generated by the Lakeside Chautauqua in Ottawa County. RMA projects are frequently implemented, usually on the county level, to help inform EDO’s about which retail sectors are growing and to identify gaps in the retail market.

Extension professionals and resources are also widely available online. Economic developers can find out more about extension services on university websites, many of which have extensive links to fact sheets, blogs and social media sites. A somewhat new initiative, “eXtension”, is an internet-based portal with access to specialized information and research on a wide range of topics from land-grant universities across the country.

The pursuit of meaningful and productive partnerships is a core principle of extension. Extension professionals seek out opportunities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects and welcome new project ideas from economic developers and others. Economic developers can partner with extension to leverage a wide range of useful university resources.

USDA OSU Extension Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant Workshops

The USDA is seeking new technology and/or creative product ideas from grass roots innovators! Got a great idea? The USDA may be interested in funding the research and development of your concept! Ohio State Extension is partnering with the USDA to promote the accessibility and availability of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. OSU Extension will be offering two (2) workshops, one in Northeast Ohio (Lorain County Community College on June 19) and one in Southwest Ohio (OSU Lima Campus) to orient interested innovators, researchers, and practitioners to this grant opportunity and the grant application process. Registration is open!

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2018 Annual Excellence Awards – Call for Nominations

The Ohio Economic Development Association’s annual excellence awards program recognizes the achievements of individuals and organizations in Ohio in the areas of economic and workforce development. Submit your nominations today and have excellence in your community recognized state-wide!

A panel of judges will assess the nominations, determine finalists, and select a winner for each of the categories noted below. Award winners will be announced at a ceremony during the OEDA Annual Summit to be held October 16-18 at The Renaissance Columbus Downtown. All award finalists and winners will be notified prior to the Annual Summit so as to make appropriate arrangements.

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Register NOW for Remaining 2018 Ohio Economic Development Institute Courses

Register Today for the Remaining 2018 Ohio Economic Development Institute Courses
OEDI is presented in partnership the Ohio Economic Development Association, JobsOhio, and the Ohio University Voinovich School.

Next Up for OEDI’s courses: Finance & Incentives July 19-20 and Business Retention & Expansion September 20- 21! Be sure to register early for these in-demand programs, as space is limited!

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