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Leaders in Economic Alliance Development: Your first step toward rural regional economic development

The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s Leaders in Economic Alliance Development program provides rural communities with increased capacity to work together regionally to improve economic development.

The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) launched the Leaders in Economic Alliance Development (LEAD) program in 2016 to build the capacity of rural communities through a short partnership development and planning process to strategically work together toward regional goals. The purpose of LEAD is to accomplish specific tasks across a short series of sessions that results in the development of leadership skills and a short, implementable plan. In Michigan, LEAD is a partnership between the USDA RD, North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, Michigan State University Extension, and the Purdue Center for Regional Development.  The first LEAD program nationally is currently taking place in west Michigan, with the participation of Lake, Mason, Newaygo and Oceana counties.

The strong partnerships of LEAD bring rural communities the talents, resources and facilitation of state and federal agencies and MSU Extension. The LEAD program focuses on building and strengthening leadership skills in the community, concentrating on opportunities to enhance the local economy, fostering the development of new partnerships within the community and getting things done.

The LEAD program is made up of several rural counties that share similar economic development challenges and opportunities. The program is developed for communities that have little or no experience working together in collaboration. For communities that are have some experience working together in economic development collaboration, the USDA RD’s Stronger Economies Together (SET) program may be a more suitable option. In both programs, community leaders work together with technical assistance from USDA RD and MSU Extension over the course of several months to identify targeted goals. Successful implementation of the program establishes long-term, substantive relationships between the community leaders working toward common goals and positions their communities to strongly compete for funds aimed at accomplishing their goals, driving regional economic development.

For additional information you may contact Ryan Coffey at coffeyry@anr.msu.edu or 231-924-9677.

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