Rural Illinois counties interested in collaborating to develop and implement a high quality regional economic development strategy could receive help with training, coaching and access to detailed data, thanks to the Stronger Economies Together (SET) program. USDA Rural Development and University of Illinois Extension announced today that applications are now being accepted for the program beginning this fall. Applications are due to the Illinois Rural Development State Office May 15, 2015.
Selected participants will receive training and coaching on regional economic development from USDA Rural Development, U of I Extension, and other partners. The SET training team and program participants will partner with federal, state and local organizations and individuals from diverse backgrounds who recognize the need to consider their economy in a new light. The focus is to build on the current and emerging economic strength of their region.
“Furthering the community economic development of our rural areas is a priority for this agency,” said Colleen Callahan, Illinois Rural Development Director. “SET brings together resources that enable rural counties to engage in the same planning and strategizing that is too often accessed only by more populous areas.”
Today’s announcement is one part of the USDA effort to strengthen the rural economy. Since its inception, over 50 regions in 28 states have participated in the SET process. Self-determined regions of at least three contiguous rural counties are eligible to apply for participation in the program, and applications may include counties in neighboring states. For this program, the population and/or geographic area of the region must be at least 51% rural in nature OR 75% of the region’s land area must be located in rural areas of that region.