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UEDA conference panel

Voinovich School team represents OHIO at economic development summit

Alexis Eichelberger
November 28, 2018

A team of representatives from Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and community partners shared Ohio University and the School’s contributions to regional economic development at the University Economic Development Association Annual Summit Oct. 21-24.

The University Economic Development Association joins academia with public and private stakeholders to support economic development, according to the organization’s website.

Dr. Jason Jolley, associate professor of rural economic development and director of the MPA program, attends the summit each year and was elected to the UEDA board last year. He was  accompanied this year by three OHIO representatives and two community partners whose presentations featured the work of the Voinovich School.

TechGROWTH Ohio Director John Glazer, Director of Regional Innovation Jennifer Simon,  Marietta City School District grant coordinator Tasha Werry, and Sugarbush Valley Impact Investments co-founder Eli Flournoy offered a panel discussion titled “Disrupting Economic Development from the Ground Up: Talent and Innovation in a Successful Rural Ecosystem.”

The panelists contrasted traditional economic development models – which focus on attracting, expanding, and retaining big employers – with Ohio University and the Voinovich School’s experiences in using university programs to support grassroots entrepreneurship. The panel emphasized the value of social enterprises-- ventures built on a social mission that also have a revenue stream—and the emerging class of “impact investors” who want to make not only a profit, but also a difference in local communities.

“It was an intense presentation, full of content and also a challenge to the university economic developers in the audience to address the underlying determinants of resilient economies and support a bunch of small, viable, place-based enterprises instead of aiming for the ‘big wins’ of attracting major corporations to move from one location to another,” Glazer said.

Simon and Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Director Faith Knutsen were among the leaders of nine “lightning round” lunchtime presentations. Simon discussed ways to boost a DIY-driven economy through university partnerships; Knutsen shared her experiences in promoting university support to social enterprises, based on experiences in Appalachia and Africa.

Jolley said the attendees and the ways in which they presented their unique insight on university-driven community development exemplified the benefits of university-community partnerships.

“It was an example, I think, of best practices in rural collaboration to advance rural economic development and rural economic ecosystems,” he said.