Stronger Economies Together (SET)
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) introduced a nationwide program to promote economic collaboration between urban and rural counties to improve and enhance regional economies. This program, called the “Stronger Economies Together” (SET) Initiative has been implemented in phases across the country. The goal is for regions to develop a Strategic Economic Development Plan that can be implemented collaboratively.
The SET Initiative consists of a multi-module training curriculum that engages communities in a visioning process from which goals and strategies are developed. Included in the curriculum is a high quality strategic plan template as well as metrics for measuring the communities’ progress toward achieving their goals. Explore the Stronger Economies Together curriculum which is housed on web site of the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University.
In 2012-2013, the NC Cooperative Extension Service facilitated the SET III planning process in two regions in North Carolina: Lee, Moore, and Richmond Counties (the “Sandhills Region”) and Wilson, Pitt, and Greene Counties (the “Eastern Triangle.”) The Sandhills Region plan has been designated a High Quality Plan and has a focus on strengthening agriculture and local food system development. This plan has resulted in the launch of the Sandhills Ag Innovations Center in 2017. The Eastern Triangle plan focuses on food and beverage manufacturing. This region is currently exploring the feasibility of a food commercialization center.
In 2015-2016, NC State Cooperative Extension facilitated the SET V planning process in the Kerr-Tar Region (Link to Kerr-Tar Plan) (Person, Granville, Vance, Warren, and Franklin Counties) and Isothermal Region C (Link to Foothills Plan) (McDowell, Polk, Rutherford, and Cleveland Counties). Both regions’ plans were awarded High Quality Plan designations by USDA. Strategies supporting workforce development, tourism, and agriculture are common to both plans, while the Kerr-Tar Region also focuses on broadband infrastructure development and attraction of advanced materials manufacturers to its existing industrial parks, and Isothermal Region C focuses on the creation of a manufacturing ecosystem connected with urban areas neighboring the region. Isothermal Region C is also building the support structure for the equine industry.
In May of 2017 the Uwharrie Region (Anson, Montgomery and Stanley) were selected for SET VII training in North Carolina. SET meetings occurred over six months in the three counties of the region. The Uwharrie Region Working Group consisted of a mix of private, public and nonprofit sector participants. Between October 2017 and March 2018 more than 50 unique individuals attended SET meetings held across the three-county area. Link to Uwharrie Plan.