|Stronger economies together is a multi-county planning process designed to build upon existing regional assets and strengths, address regional vulnerabilities, and connect communities and leadership together across the region. The process follows a national curriculum developed by the Southern Rural Development Center and the Purdue Center for Regional Development with funding from USDA-Rural Development (USDA-RD). The only cost to the region is the time allocated by participants, since USDA-RD provides funding to cover the travel/time of the facilitation team, training materials and assist with meeting costs.
The core curriculum consists of the Civic Forum plus four additional sessions, as listed below. Meetings are typically 4 hours long, and each culminates with a 30/30 discussion: what has been accomplished in the past 30 days, and what will be accomplished in the next 30 days.
After completion of the core sessions, regions will have a rough plan for economic development. Regions are encouraged to polish these plans into a cohesive document and submit it for review by peer regions and/or faciltators from around the country (over 50 regions have participated in SET since it began in 2009). Completing the plan review process results in seed funding to the region; additionally, approved plans also qualify regions to receive prioritization on USDA and EDA grant applications that contribute toward the completion of the approved plan.
There are additional sessions regions can pursue; these supplemental modules cover specific development opportunities (e.g., Local Food Systems or Tourism) and development strategies (e.g., business retention and expansion or entrepreneurship). Regions opt to pursue these modules if appropriate.