Case Studies: University Research and Economic Development
Three universities have contributed to the economic growth in rural areas in the United States. Tuskegee University, Pennsylvania State University, and Ohio State University Extension all created projects with the specific intent of boosting the local economy. All 3 projects resulted in collaborations that resulted in positive impacts. Findings of these case studies can be found below.
Tuskegee University: Small Farmer-Walmart Project
This project took place in 2011 in rural Alabama to try to provide small farmers with entrepreneurial opportunities to sell produce to Walmart. Since only 4 types of produce were desired by Walmart, most of the farmers in the study started with a small quantity to be sold. Over time, the businesses grew. From 2013 to 2015, 252 seasonal positions were created by this endeavor created by Tuskegee University and $399,600 was made by those additional employees.
Pennsylvania State University
Penn State wanted to help stimulate the economy of the rural areas surrounding their campus. They began a project to conduct university research to help local businesses be more competitive, expand a modern pool of employees, and encourage breakthroughs and business growth. Various partnerships were formed with researchers and engineering students to try to assist businesses with the resolution of issues.
For instance, the university matched students with companies that had problems they couldn't solve in-house and the students used university's technology resources and laboratory to try to help. The companies gained invaluable insights and the student researchers gained experience in solving real-world problems. In addition, "a longstanding example of Penn State's involvement in economic development in the Commonwealth is PENNTAP, the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program, founded in 1965. Last year PENNTAP responded to more than 800 technical cases at more than 500 Pennsylvania firms with a resulting economic impact in cost savings and sales increases of $6.7 million."
The university also aimed at improving the quality of the workforce in the county by "organizing an event on campus designed to get high school students interested in college-level science and engineering. It successfully increased the university attainment levels in nearby counties by several percentage points." The researches and events helped improve the lives of citizens in Pennsylvania. Over the course of 5 years, the project showed positive results. The Washington Monthly "ranked Penn State University third among all American universities and colleges for fostering social mobility, public
service, and economic growth."
In addition, "Penn State’s research expenditures topped a record $848 million; an investment that resulted in jobs, innovation and growth." According to an economic impact analysis by Tripp Umbach, research funds "have created or sustained more than 7,700 high-paying jobs in the academic medical sector."
Ohio State University Extension
In 2012, in collaboration with Wyandot County Office of Economic
Development (WCOED), the university developed a plan to examine local industries and advise the best ways to promote economic growth. Using IMPLAN software, they were able to analyze details of the county and suggest the most effective changes. They then facilitated a workshop to share their findings with local businesses. Based on the projections of the IMPLAN software, the county should see an increase of 35 full time positions and $6 million in capital investment.
Tuskegee University, Penn State, and Ohio State University Extension each collaborated with local entrepreneurs and businesses to
try to stimulate the economy of rural areas. All were successful in contributing to research or developments that helped strengthen the local economy.