Contact: Jack Geller, director, The EDA Center, 218-281-8248 or 507-381-0720; Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director, communications, 218-281-8432 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Contact: Jack Geller, professor and head, Liberal Arts and Education Dept. and director, EDA Center
Under the guidance of Jack Geller, Ph.D., who serves as director, the EDA Center will work with economic development agencies to focus on two complementary areas: Fostering a climate of entrepreneurship in economically distressed rural communities and increasing digital literacy and technology adoption. Geographic regions in Minnesota each have their own unique regional economy as well as economic challenges and opportunities. The Center will leverage the intellectual resources of the U of M to help distressed rural communities facing these economic and demographic challenges and broaden the tools available to regional economic agencies.
"Economic development has traditionally focused on business recruitment and retention, but more and more we are realizing that the path towards rural economic prosperity also includes creating a climate for entrepreneurship and small business creation. More than ever in rural Minnesota we realize that small business is big business," notes Geller.
The grant also facilitates greater collaboration with University of Minnesota Extension. Geller worked with Dick Senese, associate dean for public engagement and the Extension Center for Community Vitality, to identify Extension programs and applied research that can be tapped to inform decisions in regional economies. Extension has expertise in applied research for communities, especially as it relates to supporting community-driven approaches to economic development.
"When it comes to facing the new economy, local leadership matters - a lot," says Senese. "Extension's Center for Community Vitality is eager to help the EDA Center make University research practical and useful for those local leaders who are ready to grow their economy through business retention and development."
Utilizing the intellectual resources of the University and Extension will allow the Center to continue to provide technical assistance and applied research as well as foster a culture of entrepreneurship and business development across the state.
The Crookston campus will leverage funds to provide strategic investments through cash support and in-kind investments to help increase both opportunities for undergraduate research and internships with an economic development agency. The Center provides the opportunity to utilize the capacity of the U of M, Crookston in partnership with economic development agencies to support job creation, capital investment, business recruitment, and job retention.
"Since 2008 under the direction of Professor Jack Geller, the University of Minnesota, Crookston has served as the EDA University Center with a focus on serving the rural, economically-distressed communities across Minnesota. This new award will greatly enhance our ability to expand the geographic reach of the University Center, help foster a stronger entrepreneurial culture in these communities, and enhance the digital literacy skills of small rural businesses in economically-distressed areas of the state," explains Charles H. Casey, D.V.M., chancellor at the U of M, Crookston.
"This is strongly tied to our mission as a land-grant university; to leverage the skills and talents of our faculty and students to provide technical assistance and conduct applied research to solve real-world problems in rural Minnesota," Casey added.
To learn more about the EDA Center, visit www.edacenter.org . For more information about Extension, visit www.extension.umn.edu/community.
Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers 29 bachelor's degree programs, 18 minors, and more than 40 concentrations, including 10 online degrees, in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology. With an enrollment of about 1,450 undergraduates from more than 25 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree. "Small Campus. Big Degree." To learn more, visit www.umcrookston.edu.
Contact: Jack Geller, professor and head, Liberal Arts and Education Dept. and director, EDA Center; Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director, communications, 218-281-8432 (email@example.com)
The EDA Center, under the leadership of Center Director Jack Geller, will serve a vital role as project evaluator for the grant. Designed to bring together partners from across a wide spectrum, the grant will provide funding to carry out an array of projects. As evaluator, the EDA Center will design and conduct research on the projects, collect data, and measure the impact and effectiveness of the grant's activities. Some $459,900 is set aside for the evaluation aspect of the grant. Faculty and staff from across the University will have an opportunity to be engaged in research on projects related to the grant's objectives.
Geller is keenly aware of the significant impact improving technology access would have for those who live and work in rural Minnesota. "This grant is a very significant and comprehensive approach to targeting rural communities and those who lack access to technologies that could prove to be critically important to them," Geller states. "We will broaden awareness, provide essential technical assistance, and help those who may not even be online yet. We want to maximize this opportunity to assist rural businesses and help them adopt new technologies, increase their market share, reach new customers, and improve their bottom line."
Total cost of the coalition's proposed projects is estimated at more than $6 million. Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities coalition members will contribute $1.3 million in resources as matching funds toward the effort. The Blandin Foundation submitted the application for federal broadband stimulus funding on behalf of University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, University of Minnesota Crookston, Association of Minnesota Counties and their national counterpart, Network of Care Mental Health, Intelligent Community Forum, Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace, Minnesota Department of Economic Development Workforce Centers, PCs for People and Minnesota's nine Regional Development Commissions.
The mission of the EDA Center, located on the Crookston Campus, is to engage university faculty, staff and students with local, county and regional economic development agencies in support of the rural economy. For more information, contact Geller at 218-281-8248 or visit the EDA Center's Web site at www.edacenter.org.
Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers more than 25 bachelor's degree programs and 50 concentrations, including several online degrees, in agriculture and natural resources; arts, humanities and social sciences; business; and math, science and technology. With an enrollment of about 1,300 undergraduates, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree. "Small Campus. Big Degree." To learn more, visit www.umcrookston.edu.
Contact: Jack Geller, director, EDA Center, 218-281-8248 (firstname.lastname@example.org); Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director, communications, 218-281-8432 (email@example.com)
Researchers found that rural businesses are quite active users of the Internet and continue to integrate it into their business operations and strategy. More than half of all businesses in the study report utilizing their broadband connection for everything from selling goods and services online (56.3%) to interacting with government agencies (69.8%). Further, business owners report that securing adequate bandwidth is having a significant impact on everything from their overall cost of doing business (49.9%) to increased business sales (49.3%).
Interestingly, 71 percent of businesses in the study reported that the price they pay for their Internet connection was either "very affordable" or "priced about right"; and a wide majority of businesses (85%) reported that the speed of their current Internet connection was adequate to meet their current business needs. However, only 37 percent of the businesses had confidence that their current Internet connection speed would adequately meet their business needs 24 months from now. Further, 54 percent of the businesses reported that they planned to further increase their use of the Internet in their business within the next 12 months.
Dr. Jack Geller, professor and director of the EDA Center observed, "It is clear from these findings that the Internet; and specifically broadband technology is now an essential component of all businesses regardless of the size or location of the business. Accordingly, communities, economic developers and broadband providers must collaborate to ensure that businesses will be able to access the bandwidth they need."
A copy of the full report can be downloaded from The EDA Center's website at www.umcedacenter.org.
The EDA Center at the University of Minnesota, Crookston, is one of over 40 university centers nationwide, supported by the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The EDA Center conducts applied research, provides direct technical assistance and delivers educational programs to economic development agencies located in economically-distressed communities throughout Minnesota.
Contact: Jack Geller, director, The EDA Center, 218-281-8248 or 507-381-0720