August 26, 2013
EDA grant will foster economic development
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale has received $50,000 in U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration funding to foster economic growth, innovation and job retention and creation.
In the last half-century, an increasing number of blue and white collar jobs in the United States have been outsourced to other countries, according to Kyle Harfst, executive director of Economic Development and of the Southern Illinois Research Park at SIU. The EDA seed money will help lay a foundation to attempt to reverse this trend.
The funding is for the project “In-shoring: An Opportunity for Innovation and Economic Growth in Southern Illinois” and the focus will be on creating a strategy to encourage recognition of the region “as a viable location for in-shoring manufacturing, business support services and technology goods and services,” Harfst said.
The project includes creating an inventory of existing companies in the region that currently outsource or may be considering outsourcing products and services. Also planned are inventories of existing expertise and of educational, entrepreneurial and technical resources within the region. The University will sponsor an event regarding job creation via in-shoring, which is essentially bringing business operations back to or retaining them in the region. SIU will also develop an online regional network and marketing plan to facilitate and attract in-shoring/re-shoring, business development and regional job creation.
The project, serving a 20-county area of Southern Illinois covered by the Connect SI initiative, will start in early October. Connect SI is a regional strategy, built upon enhanced broadband connectively, that seeks to improve the regional economy.
High unemployment, poverty, the exodus of educated youth and health care service issues are major issues in the region and thus the need for jobs is critical, campus economic development officials said. In fact, four of the counties with the highest unemployment rates in the state in December 2012 were found in the area and the per capita income of residents in the majority of the included counties is well below the state and national averages.
But, Harfst notes that the region offers many benefits to meet the needs of in-shoring companies. SIU, a nationally ranked research university, offers the expertise of faculty and students as well as the research, innovation, technology and commercialization support. In addition, there are six community colleges adding to the available trained workforce. Those elements, coupled with improvements in broadband connectivity, a growing collaboration of resources for improving the economy and quality of life, and the strategic location with access to rail, interstate highway and navigable waterways, make the region ripe for development, Harfst said.
SIU officials have been in contact with EDA officials in recent years regarding economic development efforts. This is the first EDA program funding the campus has received in recent memory, Harfst said. The University is providing $52,311 in matching funds to facilitate the project, which will run through August 2014.
“The most important impact of the project is to stop the loss of jobs in Southern Illinois, particularly high-quality positions that include fringe benefits,” Harfst said. “This project will serve as a catalyst for in-shoring leading to the retention and creation of jobs in the region and ultimately, that will lead to greater economic opportunities and enhanced quality of life for residents.”