The NCRCRD is committed to building a more resilient North Central Region by improving the adaptive capacity of households, businesses, and communities through impactful research and outreach.
Resilience requires many and complex interconnecting decisions made by individuals, households, businesses, and communities. The resilience of these interconnected systems relies on their ability to bounce back better after major shocks to their various capitals such as human, built, financial, social, political, natural, and cultural.
Future Opportunities for Rural Workforce and Rural Development (FORWARD) Curriculum
The FORWARD curriculum is designed to support Cooperative Extension Professionals (CEPs) working to address workforce development issues in rural communities. This project expands upon Cooperative Extension’s experience with youth engagement and career development to target non-traditional student populations such as incumbent, displaced, and low-income workers.
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD) led the FORWARD project with support from Ascendium Education Group.
Learn more about the FORWARD curriculum at the Community Development Extension Library where it is housed and available for free download.
Building Bank Relationships _ A Small Business Banking Guide
A personal relationship with a bank is one of the most important business relationships that a small business owner has. Bankers play a vital role in helping small business owners obtain financing, receive financial advice, and achieve their goals.
This free guide is intended for new and established business owners and Extension Educators that work with entrepreneurs. The guide will help small business owners navigate the process of creating, maintaining, and enhancing a personal relationship with a bank representative. The guide also provides helpful information so that potential small business owners can become familiar with banking terminology, banking staff, and banking products and services.
Authors: Zuzana Bednarikova; Emily Cassanmagnago
Growing the Capacity and Resources of Rural Communities
April 4, 2023
Principal Investigator: Eric Smith, Central State University
Co- Principal Investigator: Amber Twitty, Central State University
As Central State University Extension, Community and Economic Development (CSUE CED) team seeks to establish a new “Resilient Communities” program area in accordance with their FY 2022-2023 Plan of Work. To accomplish this, the funding will be used to support the CSUE CED team as they seek to establish the support infrastructure for effective rural development. The team will be utilizing the funding in the following ways:
- Professional Development: At minimum, 3-4 members of the CSUE CED team would like to participate in the Community Coaching Learning Circle. This experience will increase our knowledge of the principles and practices of community coaching, an essential component of building community capacity to achieve their preferred future. As funds allow, members of the team may also participate in the Facilitative Leadership certificate program as well.
- Curriculum Acquisition: The curriculum that the CSUE CED team would like to coach communities on is the Hometown Collaborative Initiative, or HCI, developed by Purdue University Extension staff. The HCI program serves Indiana communities of 25,000 or less that are committed to building on their existing assets. We believe that our rural Ohio communities would benefit from the HCI curriculum.
- Field Trip: It is the hope of the CSUE CED team to use the remaining funds to take a field trip to Indiana and tour some of the communities that have gone through the HCI program. In addition, stops will be added to visit with Purdue University Extension staff that developed, or have coached communities, through the HCI curriculum.
Supporting Rural Resilience Through the Rural Grocery Specialist Certificate
March 15, 2022
Principal Investigator: Rial Carver, Kansas State University
Co-Principal Investigator: Debra Hagenmaier and Erica Blair, Kansas State University
Proposal Abstract: Independent businesses, particularly grocery stores, are critical for rural communities to flourish. However, many business owners across the country are nearing retirement. Proactively planning for business transition is crucial to keeping businesses operational, even after the owner moves on.
This topic is especially relevant in rural communities, where the closure of a single business can dramatically impact the local economy and quality of life. Without a business transition plan, rural grocery stores abruptly close, and communities lose out.
In 2021, the Rural Grocery Initiative launched programming to support successful rural grocery business transitions. This work revealed a clear and extensive need for more technical assistance from skilled professionals. In response, the Rural Grocery Initiative will develop a Rural Grocery Specialist certificate program to train extension professionals, economic developers and other rural stakeholders in business transition planning fundamentals so that they may promote long‐term economic resilience in their communities.
Enhancing Cost Estimates of Rural Child Care in Indiana
March 15, 2022
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Finders, Purdue University
Co-Principal Investigator: Sara Schmitt, Purdue University
Investigators: George Rickus, Advisor and Consultant; Tanya Hall, Purdue University Extension Community Development
Proposal Abstract: Child care subsidies assist families with low incomes in paying for child care. The equal access principal asserts that families using subsidies should have comparable options to families who are not eligible for subsidies. Almost all states face challenges meeting this benchmark because they typically reimburse child care providers based on the prices they charge instead of what it costs to operate their programs. This is particularly problematic in rural communities where there exists a shortage of child care overall. Thus, it is important to ensure the methodology behind reimbursement rates captures actual costs in rural markets to incentivize programs to accept subsidies and increase options for families. The proposed project will support the enhancement of a tool developed to estimate the costs of providing child care in Indiana. Findings will generate knowledge about the costs of high-quality programming in rural communities and may inform future reimbursement rate setting.
An Extension Guidebook to Help Communities Plan for Drought Using Scenario Based Exercises
November 5, 2019
Principal Investigator: Deborah Bathke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Co-Principal Investigators: Peter Tomlinson, Kansas State University; Hans Schmitz, Purdue University; Tonya Bernadt, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Droughts, with their prolonged absence of rain, can creep up on communities causing disastrous consequences to the economy, environment, and human health. Scenario-based exercises (e.g., workshops, tabletop exercises, and games) focused on drought offer an innovative way to bring people together to discuss drought planning and policy issues. Participants can collaborate with and learn from other community members, decision-makers, planners, and scientists. Rural communities, which often have limited fiscal resources and a lack of local government capacity may find these exercises especially beneficial as they create a framework for helping the community to draw up their unique resources, such as their self-reliant nature, strong sense of community, tightly connected family networks, and knowledge of and ties to natural resources, to build resilience to drought and increase sustainability. This project translates existing research on how drought scenario exercises have been used to help communities better prepare for drought into an interactive Extension Guide designed to help Extension specialists and others working in community development educate communities about drought and the importance of planning; illustrate the use of scenario exercises as an innovative way to engage community members in the planning process; provide guidance for selecting appropriate scenario exercises to help start the planning process; and explore case studies based on the experiences of other communities and organizations.
Homegrown: Entrepreneurship in your Community—An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Curriculum
November 5, 2019
Principal Investigator: Tessa Conroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Co-Principal Investigator: Sarah A. Low, University of Missouri
Research and outreach on entrepreneurship in regional economic development indicates weak entrepreneurial networks in much of rural America. This problem is especially acute in regions that have traditionally relied on business attraction and retention as a rural economic development strategy, as have Wisconsin and Missouri. The proposed program aims to create a supportive network in rural areas, so that when entrepreneurs are considering starting a business they get supportive signals from key community leaders. The principal output from this grant will be the development and piloting of an Extension curriculum, “Homegrown: Entrepreneurship in your Community.” The proposed Extension program taps the new and rapidly growing body of research on entrepreneurial ecosystems and uses it to create a customizable curriculum that aims to grow entrepreneurial networks in rural areas, and consequently, foster rural economic development. A secondary output from this grant will be the development of a USDA NIFA AFRI integrated grant proposal to the “Innovation for Rural Entrepreneurs and Communities” program area, summer 2020. Our AFRI project will propose measuring entrepreneurial networks in rural communities and their impact on business ownership and performance. The policy question is whether there is a role for smaller communities to facilitate institutions that foster networking and social capital that enhance local entrepreneurship?
Retaining Rural Businesses by Transitioning to Cooperative Ownership
November 5, 2019
Principal Investigator: Michael Darger, University of Minnesota
Co-Principal Investigators: Courtney Berner, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Kevin Edberg
The UofM Extension and the UofWI Center for Cooperatives, along with Cooperative Development Services in St. Paul will design, deliver and evaluate a “road show” about converting businesses to employee ownership with audiences in rural areas. Converting businesses to employee ownership through worker-owned cooperatives is a new approach to retaining businesses when owners retire. At least it’s new in terms of acceptance and application in the economic development field. It has gained traction on the East and West coasts, however adoption has been slower in the North Central region. For businesses with <100 employees, converting to a worker owned cooperative is potentially a pathway for business succession. However, outside of co-op circles few are aware of this method nor have considered it as a viable option for retaining businesses. In Minnesota and Wisconsin there are ~27,000 retiring business owners potentially interested in this research. Additionally, this project builds on new federal legislation and rules, including the availability of USDA Business and Industry Loan Guarantees for cooperatives, and the Main Street Employee Ownership Act.
This project will create insights and greater understanding of needs/barriers relative to supporting rural business-to-cooperative transitions in the North Central region. Leveraging the knowledge and experience developed by project partners and practitioners in other regions, the project team will create, pilot test, and evaluate methods. The goals include 1. creating basic awareness about converting businesses to employee ownership, 2. gaining its acceptance as a viable option and 3. spurring adoption of cooperative conversions as a succession strategy.
Support Our Stores (SOS): Initiating Multi-State Response to Rural Grocery Store Crisis
November 5, 2019
Principal Investigator: Kathy Draeger, University of Minnesota
Co-Principal Investigators: Jody Bruns, North Dakota State University; Ren Olive, University of Minnesota
Rural grocery stores, those located in communities with a population of 2,500 or less, are closing at unprecedented rates, the impact of which is being felt throughout rural communities nationwide. These closures are often permanent and new owners and stores are not replacing those that are shuttered.
The impact of these closures results in limited access to a full range of healthy grocery items, decreased Main Street businesses, reduced community assets and vitality. This project seeks to identify, recruit, and orient Extension research and outreach to supporting the remaining grocery stores, piloting this in MN and ND. The goal of this project, Support Our Stores (SOS): Initiating Multi-State Response to Rural Grocery Store Crisis, is to develop a grant proposal to increase land-grant university capacity to help stem the epidemic of rural grocery store closings in Minnesota and North Dakota, and to provide a framework for other regions to address a similar problem.
This planning project will harness multi-state insight, experience, and expertise through the collaboration of the University of Minnesota (UMN) Extension and the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension services. The “SOS” planning team will: 1) conduct a Situation Assessment and identify available resources, 2) use project planning meetings with ND and MN to define goals and objectives, and, 3) complete a full grant proposal and budget.
Food Access and Independent Grocers: Strengthening Food Security in Underserved Communities
November 15, 2018
Principal Investigator: Gary Taylor, Iowa State University
Co-Principal Investigators: Lisa Bates and Jon Wolseth, Iowa State University; David Procter, Kansas State University; and Greg Schweser, University of Minnesota
Compile existing land grant university resources that support independently-owned groceries as sites of food security, social centers, and economic opportunity in the rural Heartland by bringing together three partners (Iowa State University, Kansas State University, and University of Minnesota) to review our existing resources and efforts, identify gaps where development of additional resources are needed, and begin the discussion on creating a joint curriculum for working with independently-owned groceries that could be shared throughout the North Central region.
The Impact of Volunteers on Sustainable Rural Community Development
November 15, 2018
Principal Investigator: SoJung Lee, Iowa State University
Co-Principal Investigators: Linda Niehm, Iowa State University; Jichul Jang, Kansas State University; and MiRan Kim, Michigan State University
A rural festival can be an important contributor to a community’s resource base and a means of sustainable community development. Effective festival operation and management are also essential to a successful event. Many rural festivals rely heavily on volunteers to remain viable. However, there is limited understanding regarding the role of volunteers in rural community events and their impact on civic life and local leadership development. The primary purpose of this research is to identify the role and impact of festival volunteers on sustainable rural community development using a community capitals perspective. For this study, a research model will be developed and tested to 1) identify how volunteers influence community sustainability through a set of input variables, including: motivation, attachment, ownership, loyalty, leadership, engagement, and community support, 2) examine if volunteers’ demographics and festivals ’profiles moderate the impact of volunteers on a rural community, and 3) create a foundational assessment tool to be used for a festival volunteer training toolkit. Twelve rural festivals in Iowa, Michigan, and Kansas will be selected for the proposed study. Surveys will be distributed to festival volunteers between fall 2018 and summer 2019. Findings will portray the current opportunities and challenges of managing volunteers in rural festivals and provide a feasible and practicable perspective for developing a volunteer training program and related toolkit. Results will offer preliminary data for a larger external grant (e.g., USDA Rural Community Development Initiative Grants) to develop a sustainable volunteer training program to for rural festival organizers and community stakeholders.
Integrating and Sustaining Financial Capability Services in Rural Healthcare Delivery
November 15, 2018
Principal Investigator: J. Michael Collins, University of Wisconsin
Co-Principal Investigators: D. Elizabeth Kiss, Kansas State University; Suzanne Bartholomae, Iowa State University; and Carrie Johnson; North Dakota State University
Extension educators in several states in the North Central region have been delving into the links between health and household finances. Although financial capability support services are available in many rural communities, financial education, coaching, and related programs are not well integrated into health systems. At the same time, a growing body of research shows that financial strain undermines people’s ability to follow-through on medical treatments, ultimately harming their health. This project bridges the domains of household finance and health through 1) a needs assessment documenting rural healthcare providers’ perspectives on screening patients for financial difficulties and integrating financial capability supports into health services and 2) exploring the potential of sustaining these services through insurance reimbursement. Healthcare’s fee-for-service payment model has restricted the integration of social services, such as financial education, into the delivery system; however, financial hardship recently gained a medical diagnosis code (ICD-10-Z59.9), creating interest in reimbursement for financial education. Challenges to service integration loom especially large in rural areas, where the average patient-to-primary care physician ratio of only 40 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas. Thus, rural healthcare providers have even less capacity to conduct financial screenings or make referrals. This project will draw on healthcare professionals’ perspectives to develop recommendations for tools, resources, partnership strategies, and programs that support financial capability service integration into rural health systems.
Data in the North Central Region: The Nebraska Rural Poll, the Ohio Farm Poll, and the NCR-Stat (1/24/24)
Presenters: L.J. McElravy, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication and Rural Prosperity Nebraska, University of Nebraska – Lincoln; Douglas Jackson-Smith, Professor, Kellogg Chair, and Director of the Agroecosystem Management Program, The Ohio State University; and Zuzana Bednarik, Research and Extension Specialist, North Central Regional Center for Rural Development.
Rural Tourism in the North Central Region and Additional National Resources (5/16/23)
Presenters: Andy Northrop, Extension Educator, Community Vitality – Tourism, Michigan State University; Global Scholar; Chair, National Extension Tourism Network; Xinyi Qian, Director, University of Minnesota Tourism Center; Vice Chair, National Extension Tourism Network; and Natalie Chin, Climate and Tourism Outreach Specialist, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.
Siting Clean Energy and Spent Nuclear Fuel Facilities: Rural Opportunities and Impacts (4/25/23)
Presenters: Vincent Ialenti, Social Scientist, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, Consent-Based Siting Team; and Sarah Banas Mills, Senior Research Specialist, Graham Sustainability Institute and Lecturer, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Be Prepared, NCR: A Community Planning Approach to Green Infrastructure, Hazard Mitigation, and Flooding (3/7/23)
Presenters: Kara Salazar, Assistant Program Leader and Extension Specialist for Sustainable Communities with IL-IN Sea Grant, Purdue University Extension, and Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources; Carrie McKillip, Extension Educator of Community and Economic Development, University of Illinois Extension; Kenneth Hellevang, Professor, Extension Engineer, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, North Dakota State University. The March webinar was co-presented by NCRCRD and the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN).
Rural Broadband Tools and Resources in the NCR (2/27/23)
Presenters: Thomas Keene, Ph.D. Student, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics & Department of Economics, Michigan State University; Liz Mack, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, Michigan State University; and Roberto Gallardo, Director, Purdue Center for Regional Development & Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University
Supporting Rural Grocery Stores Across the North Central Region (11/7/22)
Presenters: Lisa Bates, Interim Assistant Director and Field Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development; Greg Schweser, Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, UMN Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships; and Rial Carver, Program Leader, Rural Grocery Initiative, K-State Research and Extension
How We Work Together: Supporting Local/Regional Food Systems through Collaboration (8/30/22)
Presenter: Lindsey Scalera, Community Food Systems Collaboration Specialist, Center for Regional Food Systems, Michigan State University
Moving Rural Communities FORWARD: Future Opportunities for Rural Workforce and Rural Development through Extension (5/24/22)
Presenters: Tanya Hall (Community Development Regional Extension Educator, Purdue University), Sheila Martin, (Strategic Advisor for Economic and Community Engagement, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities), and Michael D. Wilcox, Jr., Ph.D. (Assistant Director & Program Leader for Community Development-Purdue Extension, Associate Director-North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD), Community & Regional Economics Specialist-Purdue University Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Senior Associate-Purdue Center for Regional Development)
How Can Communities Address the Great Resignations? & Work Ready Life Skills Curriculum Preps Applicants for Job Openings Around the Country (3/10/22)
Presenters: Bo Beaulieu (Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics), Monica Nagele (Health and Human Science Educator, Montgomery County, IN), Mitch Wagoner (4-H Youth Development, Knox County, IN)
Retaining Rural Businesses through Conversions to Employee Cooperatives (2/22/22)
Presenters: Michael Darger (University of Minnesota Extension), Courtney Berner (University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives), Kevin Edberg (Cooperative Development Services)
The Impacts of Flooding on Business Activity and Employment: A Spatial Perspective on Small Business (1/20/22)
Presenters: Mark Skidmore, Professor, Michigan State University
Latino Farmers in the Midwest: Practices and Challenges (11/10/21)
Presenters: Corinne Valdivia (University of Missouri), Stephen Jeanetta (University of Minnesota), and Ruben Martinez (Michigan State University)
Using Q Methodology to Measure Rural Entrepreneurial Perceptions & An Overview of Homegrown (9/16/21)
Presenters: Jennifer Johnson Jorgensen (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and Tessa Conroy (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
How Communities Can Utilize Financial Data in Planning Their Futures: Strategies and Innovations from Rural Iowa (5/26/21)
Presenters: Biswa Das (Iowa State University) and Kimberly Zarecor (Iowa State University)
The Impact of Volunteers on Sustainable Rural Community Development (03/25/2020)
Presented by: SoJung Lee and Linda Niehm (Iowa State University), MiRan Kim (Michigan State University) and Jichul Jang (Kansas State University)
Expanding the Intelligent Community Extension Program (03/11/2020)
Presented by: Roberto Gallardo (Purdue University)
Making Sense of Incentives: Taming Business Incentives to Promote Prosperity (11/07/19)
Presented by: Tiomothy J Bartik (Upjohn Institute)
Results of Virtual Focus Groups on Small Businesses and Rural Communities (3/5/19)
Presented by: Craig Carpenter & Anders Van Sandt (TAMU); Linda Niehm & Steven McKinney (Iowa State University); Scott Loveridge (Michigan State University)
Dimensions of Poverty in the North Central Region of the U.S. (12/5/18)
Presented by: Lionel (Bo) Beaulieu, Indraneel Kumar, Andrey Zhalnin and Yong J. Kim (Purdue University)
Fiscal Stress After the Great Recession: A Study of Rural Counties in the US
Presented by: Biswa Das (Iowa State University) and John Leatherman (Kansas State University)
Successful Disaster Recovery Using the Community Capitals Framework (2/1/18)
Presented by: Gary Goreham (South Dakota State University)
Potential Rural Impacts of Pension Reductions (1/23/18)
Presented by: Steven Miller (Michigan State University), Steve Deller (University of Wisconsin/Extension) and Judith Stallman (University of Missouri)
Housing Working Group
Project Title: Collaborate, Scan, Develop: a Multi-State DEI Rural Housing Program Based in the North Central Region
September 1, 2023
Principal Investigator: Lisa Bates, Iowa State University
The lack of safe and affordable housing accessible to all residents is one of the most important problems for rural communities across the country. This multi-state proposal seeks the NCRCRD’s support to work across state boundaries and develop research-based housing resources and programing. Improving rural housing conditions across the region will help communities support their local economies that are better able to attract businesses, create jobs, and improve local wages. Enabling a community to have adequate, safe, and affordable homes is a key component to strengthening community overall health and wellness. Increases in rural health and wellness supports community resiliency with healthy residents that can focus on education, training, and community engagement ensuring the next generation of workforce and community leaders.
Seven land-grant institutions in the region have confirmed their commitment to working together on this proposed housing working group including Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and University of Wisconsin. This group is committed to working with diverse and underserved populations through research, experience, and best practices to improve all citizens access to quality housing through research-based education and programming. Housing disproportionately impacts underserved communities negatively, this group will work toward the improvement in housing solutions that affect an equally diverse segment of the population across the region.
Award: The housing working group received a 3-year grant from the NCRCRD totaling $47,734. Each year of the funded project, the group will share their findings and progress with the broader North Central Region in an NCRCRD-hosted webinar.
About Thematic Working Groups
It is the NCRCRD’s mission to build rural communities through cutting-edge research and Extension programs and innovative partnerships. To achieve this mission, we seek to engage research and Extension at all of the land-grant institutions across the North Central Region.
Funding will be provided for multistate working groups focused on the NCRCRD’s three rural development thematic areas of creating resilient communities and economies, developing leadership and civic engagement, and promoting community health and wellness that integrates research and Extension. Multistate working groups may focus on one theme and one system. However, work across themes and systems is highly encouraged. The Center will provide administrative support and may include Center staff as part of the working groups as appropriate.
The Center will provide up to $50,000 over three years. Funding can be used for team development and meetings, preliminary data collection, or other activities that facilitate multi-state regional and sustainable collaboration that lead to relevant regional outputs. These projects will result in scholarly work such as research publications, Extension curricula, and proposals for external funding.
To learn more about thematic working groups and how to submit a working group proposal, please download the working group RFP below. Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis.