Carl Nathe

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UK Team To Study Economic Development in Appalachia

Published: Oct 3, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 3, 2011) — What are the most effective ways that economic development organizations (EDO's) in Kentucky Appalachia can work together to identify new pathways toward local and regional prosperity?  How can these organizations optimize the value and impact of the connections they have already established with local businesses, service providers, government and non-government agencies, and educational institutions?

           

These are just a couple of the questions to be examined by a multidisciplinary team of University of Kentucky researchers working in Appalachian Kentucky over the next two years. Funded by a $485,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the study aims to yield new insights and knowledge related to "inter-organizational networks and best practices" that can help EDOs throughout the region achieve their goals.

 

Located throughout the 54 Kentucky counties classified as “Appalachian” by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), there are a few hundred economic development organizations (EDOs) including, but not limited to: area development districts, chambers of commerce, the economic development offices at area colleges,  the Mountain Association for Economic Community Development (MACED) in Berea,  and many others.  In general, EDOs work to improve the local economy, for example, by helping establish new businesses, assisting existing businesses become more competitive, developing local infrastructure and employee training programs, and providing support to local and state policymakers in their efforts to create and support an environment that stimulates job growth and prosperity.

 

The research team has uniquely integrated their expertise in inter-organizational networks, strategic planning, decision making, community development, socioeconomics, and government policy to examine the operations of EDOs from a new perspective.

 

"This is not a case of people coming in with predetermined solutions," said Wally Ferrier, the study’s principal investigator and Gatton Endowed Associate Professor of Strategic Management in UK's Gatton College of Business and Economics. "The

approach will be to apply a unique variety of lenses in an effort to get a fresh look, a fresh assessment of economic development efforts in the region. The focus will be on how EDOs are connected to other important organizations in their communities, not to

suggest changes in the important economic development work Kentucky’s EDOs already do.”

 

"This is not lip service," said co-principal investigator Steve Borgatti, Paul Chellgren Endowed Chair of Management in the Gatton College of Business and Economics and research faculty member in LINKS, the Gatton College’s International Center for Research on Social Networks in Business, an internationally-recognized scholar in the world of social network theory and analysis. "The team will be looking into and building upon already-established relationships in the region as we dig down to the level of individual organizations to assess whether they are achieving their goals, and if not, what are the obstacles. We are particularly interested in how EDOs can collaborate with each other to help them derive the maximum from their operations."

 

Evelyn Knight, the former director of UK’s Appalachian Center and current professor in the College of Public Health, is also one of the study’s co-principal investigators.  She added, "The breadth and depth of experience evident on this research team is critical to the success of this effort."

 

In addition to the Gatton College and the College of Public Health, researchers working on the project represent the College of Education, College of Social Work, the Department of Sociology (College of Arts and Sciences), and the Department of Community and Leadership Development (College of Agriculture).

 

The study will unfold in waves.  The first phase involves working with the community of EDOs to understand what they are doing and how they are doing it.  In the second phase, the research team will assess the impact of each EDO and map out the network of collaborations among these EDOs and other organizations to see where their complementary resources and competencies can be better leveraged through collaboration.

 

Throughout the duration of the study the research team is committed to building a set of enduring partnerships between members of the Appalachian economic development community and the University of Kentucky.  At the study’s end, the researchers hope to develop a series of conferences, webinars, and workshops where they can share their research findings in a way that is relevant, timely, and actionable.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Carl Nathe, (859) 257-3200; carl.nathe@uky.edu.

 

MEDIA NOTE:  Please see attached FACT SHEET for more information about the members of the research team.

 

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