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Media Contacts

Jerry Conover
Indiana Business Research Center

Sam Cordes
Purdue University Center for Regional Development

Vickie Gardner
Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman's office

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2005

Federal government awards grant for southern regional competitiveness

Oct. 17, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, 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 Indiana University's Indiana Business Research Center a $425,500 grant.

The Governor's Office of Federal Grants and Procurement helped to 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, the 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."

"This is a great opportunity to help Indiana's rural communities reach their full potential," said Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, who also serves as Indiana's Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. "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:

• Linkages between 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 everybody 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 the 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.