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'Stronger Economies Together' initiative to strengthen regional economic development


BLACKSBURG, Va., April 25, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, in conjunction with Virginia Cooperative Extension and other state and local partners, announced details of the “Stronger Economies Together” (SET) initiative, which is designed to help regional teams develop new approaches to strengthen and enhance regional economic development activities.

“The SET initiative is an opportunity for current or newly formed multicounty teams to receive the latest tools, training, and technical assistance to help their region move forward and capitalize on strengths to create jobs, wealth, and economic development,” said Scott Tate, community viability specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension. According to Tate, two multicounty regions in rural Virginia will be chosen to participate in the initiative.

The SET initiative eligibility requirements are as follows:

1. Applicants must be multicounty regions of at least three counties in Virginia or in conjunction with counties in neighboring states; and

2. Either the average rural population must be 51 percent or more of the region’s total population, or 75 percent of the land area must be considered rural — based on census data or other sufficient data or documentation.

Applications for the SET initiative are available on the Strengthening Economies Together website. Completed applications must be submitted electronically to Scott Tate by May 4, 2012. An acknowledgement of receipt will be sent within 36 hours. The two applicants that are selected will be announced by June 30, 2012. There is no application fee, but applicants should be prepared to supply some minor logistical support.

The successful regions will receive coaching, 35 hours of training, and up to 40 hours of technical assistance over a one-year period, including:

  • Valuable training on the core building blocks for developing and launching a regional economic development plan;
  • In-depth economic data that delineates the critical drivers of the region’s economy; and
  • Tools that uncover local assets and resources that can be tapped to advance the region’s economic strategies and actions.

Tate also says he encourages applicants to collaborate with their local Virginia Cooperative Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development offices.

State partner organizations for the SET initiative include the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development, Virginia Economic Bridge, Virginia Business Incubation Association, Virginia Association of Counties, and the Virginia Department of Business Assistance.

For more information, contact

  • Ellen Davis, Virginia state director, USDA Rural Development, at 804-287-1552; or
  • Scott Tate, community viability specialist, Virginia Cooperative Extension, at 540-315-2062.

The Virginia State USDA Rural Development Office, located in Richmond, Va., administers USDA Rural Development programs through four area offices and four sub-area offices across the state. Each office is committed to serving those in search of information and assistance with Rural Development programs and initiatives. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting the USDA Rural Development website.

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia's land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based educators, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 11 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.