The LSU AgCenter’s Community Leadership and Economic Development Program received the 2005 training achievements award from the International Economic Development Council during the council’s annual meeting in Chicago in September.
“Economic development pursuits have always played an invaluable role in strengthening the nation’s economy one locality at a time, and, as our country faces challenges ranging from an elevated national debt to a declining yet still significant unemployment rate, these efforts take on an even greater importance,” said Steven J. Budd, IEDC chairman. “This award honors pace-setting organizations in economic development, an excellent example of which is the LSU AgCenter.”
The LSU AgCenter created its Community Leadership and Economic Development Program in 1994 to address the need for improved leadership capacity and economic development readiness of Louisiana’s rural communities. Partnering with such organizations as the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives, the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, the Louisiana Police Jury Association, the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority and Cleco Power, the program has been offered in communities across the state.
Known as CLED, for short, the program is designed to provide training for community volunteers to help them make their communities better places to live. It involves 10 weeks of classes organized by LSU AgCenter faculty members, and hundreds of Louisiana residents have completed the program in the past 10-11 years.
“The class offers an opportunity for everyday people to get involved in making things happen in their communities,” said Karen Overstreet, an LSU AgCenter specialist and one of the program coordinators.
Another of the coordinators, LSU AgCenter economist Sandy Dooley, echoes those sentiments about teaching “ordinary citizens” how they can become involved in making their communities more attractive to new and existing businesses – as well as making them better places to live for everyone.
“The program is designed to attract ordinary citizens into the work of economic development in their own communities,” Dooley said. “It not only provides an opportunity for interested citizens and community leaders to come together to study and solve local problems, but it also stresses there has to be a longterm commitment by local leadership to improving their area’s economic potential.”
Officials from the International Economic Development Council say the LSU AgCenter program was a “clear standout” in its awards competition. The program was recognized in the category of outstanding College/University Economic Development Training Achievements by organizations serving areas with populations under 50,000.
The International Economic Development Council is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to provide leadership and excellence in economic development for communities, members and partners. IEDC’s professional economic development awards annually recognize excellence in the economic development profession.
(This article was published in the fall 2005 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)