Current Projects

Image of Panel Data Project

Panel Data Project

A North Central regional panel dataset will be developed as a venue and incentive for interdisciplinary collaboration across states and across research and Extension. The Center would maintain the baseline data and collect it across time. The Center along with the Advisory Board would develop a policy for its use and distribution. The Center would collect data focused on regional household, business, and community wellbeing focused on the three themes, across time and space.

Having an available dataset would decrease the barriers for institutions to study regional changes and conduct comparative research. Regional data would increase regional collaboration for both research and Extension. The Center would facilitate regional collaboration for survey development, data collection methods, data analysis that leads to publications and educational curricula. The regional dataset would also enhance collaboration between high- and low-resource institutions across the region. Institutions could choose to oversample their states and researchers could provide funds to include focused topics in the survey.


Image of Facilitating Career Pathways for Rural Students: Cooperative Extension as a Community Connector

Facilitating Career Pathways for Rural Students: Cooperative Extension as a Community Connector

This project will build the capacity for rural communities to address workforce challenges by building and testing a Rural Workforce Engagement Model to be implemented by Cooperative Extension. Cooperative Extension leaders will facilitate their communities to design rural career pathways that will meet the workforce needs in their specific communities and the needs of rural low-income and non-traditional learners. The targeted population will benefit from improved outcomes, such as program persistence and completion, job placement, increased wages, and social mobility.

Five sets of partners will participate in this planning and pilot project: Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU), Regional Rural Development Centers (with the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at the lead); the Cooperative Extension leaders who will comprise the Workforce Engagement Model Design Team; and the team of Extension and community stakeholders from two pilot regions who will pilot test the model.


Future Projects

Image of NC1100: A Systems Perspective to Community Resilience: Rural Healthcare at the Intersection of Households and Businesses

NC1100: A Systems Perspective to Community Resilience: Rural Healthcare at the Intersection of Households and Businesses

Typically, rural businesses generate lower revenues and employ fewer employees than their urban counterparts, in part because lower populations and lower-income populations generate less demand for what businesses offer yet are dependent upon these offerings. Current assessments indicate that improvements in educational attainment and health status are lagging in rural areas, which threatens rural businesses as well as the vitality and resilience of rural communities.

Over the last four decades, globalization and technological change have altered the nature of work in rural communities. In many cases, global outsourcing has replaced traditional trades in mining, manufacturing, and agriculture. While these trends have affected the entire economy similarly, the slowness or inability of rural areas to recover has created an increasing economic divide between the labor and economic opportunities in urban versus rural communities. This leaves in place a workforce that may be discouraged, displaced from previous jobs, and with no previous experience relative to the jobs available in these rural communities. As well, in some rural areas, out-migration has led to a labor shortage of working-age adults.

This project examines innovative and evidence-based approaches for enhancing workforce development and organizational wellbeing for small rural business owners, with an aim of promoting community prosperity and wellbeing. Specifically, the objectives of the NC1100 project are listed below: Identify the strategies used by small rural businesses to maintain and develop a skilled and healthy labor force. Assess the effect of workforce wellness programs on firm outcomes such as employee retention and profitability. Assess the impact of health disparities on the wellbeing of households and business-owning households in rural communities. Exploring the role of rural small businesses in community-based efforts to address substance use disorder.