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NMSU Extension coordinates regional economic development planning training

New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service will help two regional groups develop an economic development strategic plan as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Stronger Economies Together program.

NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' community resources and economic development program is coordinating the training for community leaders from the southwest region Luna, Hidalgo, Grants and Catron counties, and northeast region Colfax, Union, Mora, San Miguel, Harding, Quay and Guadalupe counties, as they develop a strategic plan to strengthen their regional economy.

The southwest region will begin the process Thursday, Oct. 14, in Deming, while the northeastern region will begin on Nov. 19 in Tucumcari. The initial training session will give the participants a snapshot of the Stronger Economies Together program, which is designed to help counties to work together to develop and implement a regional economic development strategic plan.

"The SET program provides New Mexico's rural counties and communities with a unique opportunity to grow their economies through regional planning," said Michael Patrick, NMSU's Extension community resource and economic development specialist.

SET is a collaborative initiative between the Western Regional Rural Development Center at Utah State University, USDA Rural Development, NMSU and the New Mexico State Economic Development Department.

Community leaders will receive 20 hours of training on the SET program and guidance on ways to strengthen and enhance regional economic development activities.

"The training will provide tools that can help uncover the variety of assets and resources that exist in the region that can contribute to the area's economic activities," Patrick said.

Training will include eight modules focusing on regional economic development, building a strong regional team, a regional vision and goals, exploring assets and barriers, examining current demographic features of the region, exploring the region's economic foundation and development opportunities, planning for success and measuring for success.

Key data tailored to each region will be provided to help the regional teams examine the critical driver of its economy and emerging economic sectors that may determine if that particular region might hold a comparative edge in the domestic and/or the international marketplace.

"We have found that communities that work together to solve common economic development issues are more successful and sustainable," said Terry Brunner, New Mexico's USDA Rural Development state director. "We believe this collaborative opportunity will help these selected rural communities to develop strategies to meet the economic challenges facing our state and our country."

New Mexico is one of eight states involved in the pilot program. Other states include Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Web seminars with the other 15 selected regions in the United States will also be provided, which will enable the sharing of information and gathering of ideas from other rural communities across the country.

During the one-year period of the project, SET program will provide technical assistance and educational support from NMSU Extension educators, USDA Rural Development staff, and appropriate regional rural development centers.