Iowa State offers economic development help to rural areas

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's fourth annual Economic Development Open House will encourage rural leaders to think beyond attracting the next factory to town.

Iowa State speakers will tell economic development officials and other community leaders about new economic development opportunities in agriculture, entrepreneurship and community vitality. The speakers will also explain how Iowa State can help communities grow and develop.

"We hope to stimulate new thinking about 21st century economic development in rural states like Iowa," said Paul Brown, an open house organizer and the assistant director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension.

The conference will be 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, in Iowa State University's Memorial Union. There is a $25 registration fee for participants.

"In agriculture, the economic rewards for adding value to crops and livestock are far-reaching," Brown said. "We believe that combining Iowa's rich natural resources, productive people and viable communities with its strong agricultural industry can result in successful economic development."

The possibilities for developing Iowa's assets are written all over the agenda for the open house: There will be discussions about biofuels, the wine industry, pork production for niche markets, organic foods, regional products and community visioning.

Mark Reinig, the economic development program manager for the College of Engineering, said a theme of the discussions will be that economic development doesn't have to be industrial development. It could also involve building community vitality by encouraging local entrepreneurship and philanthropy. And it could involve finding ways to add value to Iowa agriculture.

Craig Lang, the president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, will deliver a keynote address about "Reinventing Iowa's Rural Economy" at 12:15 p.m. in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.

"This is a new era for rural economic development in the state," Brown said. "It's an era that's really ripe with opportunities."

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