MONON — The US Economic Development Administration has awarded the Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission a $34,930 grant to assist six northwest Indiana counties in creating a strategy to leverage the region’s agricultural assets.
The grant will fund implementation of the Rural Economic Development Model (REDM): a first-of-its-kind process developed in Indiana to assist rural communities in creating new economic development opportunities for Indiana’s farmers.
KIRPC is a voluntary public partnership that assists local governments in efforts to improve and strengthen community and economic conditions and opportunities through grant writing and grant administration. The group also communicates with legislators, as well as federal, state and local agencies.
The USEDA grant will enable Benton, Jasper, Newton, Pulaski, Starke and White counties to examine the agricultural output in their regions to identify opportunities for creating new markets, applications, or processing facilities that can enhance the local value of the agricultural output.
“This regional ag strategy will be working to develop a rural economic development model for these six counties that, hopefully in time, will attract ag-related businesses to the area,” said Andrew Westfall, Purdue Extension White County director and Extension educator. “This model will be established by identifying current assets, any economic leakages that are occurring, and analyzing current policy and infrastructure. Long term, this will help create jobs and hopefully create new market opportunities for farmers in the area.”
Randy Mitchell, president of the White County Economic Development Organization, said the goal is to use the analysis from the identification of the target sectors to ultimately attract new opportunities
“White County is excited to work in the creation of a strategy to leverage our agricultural assets,” he said.
Jasper County Board of Commissioners’ Kendall Culp said he is excited to see his county involved in the effort to highlight agricultural and work to add value to the many commodities produced by farmers.
“As the leading agricultural county in Indiana, I'm pleased to see Jasper County taking the lead in developing an agriculture strategy that will add value to the commodities our farmers grow here,” he said. “As we work to sustain our local communities, we need to build upon our strength. Agriculture provides that opportunity for us locally and regionally."
REDM was created as a collaboration between the Indiana Economic Development Association (IEDA), Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) with support from the Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
REDM employs a proprietary technology developed by PCRD that enables counties and regions to examine the agricultural output unique to their locale, and then engages a local planning team composed of local economic development officials, farmers, and other local stakeholders to create and implement a plan to leverage local agricultural outputs, expand existing agribusinesses and attract new economic opportunities.
The 18-month process kicked off in the third quarter of 2021 and will be completed by fall 2022.