The land grant universities are great creators of new knowledge. Much of the knowledge generated at land grant universities has application in rural areas, both in agriculture and in other sectors. More efficient systems are needed for communities to become aware of new technologies and better understanding of human dynamics associated with adoption of new technologies. Moving from awareness to adoption requires assessment. Assessment involves determine whether the knowledge base is sufficiently developed to implement; awareness of potential adverse consequences as well as benefits is important in the assessment process.
Greater awareness of long term impacts of human activity is translating into demand for a greater understanding of how rural communities impact the environment, and how to reduce or mitigate adverse environmental impacts through reduced use of non-renewable resources as well as restoration and development of natural systems. Communities are also under stress of population decline; involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including those who do not usually participate in decision-making processes, is important to reverse long term decline and assure sustainability into the future. Rural areas are also interested in developing their share of green jobs and otherwise reinventing their manufacturing base as a way of sustaining the local economy. A better understanding of how and why rural youth engage in sustainability issues is needed.
Rural areas cannot prosper without well informed and effective leaders. The region’s Land Grant Universities (LGUs) have long provided leadership development for rural areas in a variety of ways. As the LGUs face increasing budgetary pressure in the current fiscal environment, more cost effective ways of helping to develop new rural leaders are needed. The region has a need to pass information on how to be an effective leader to the next generation. The region is also host to a number of federally recognized tribes with unique systems of governance; there may be important lessons to be learned in sharing information across the region. More generally, rural leaders need to find ways to continue delivering effective government and other services in an era of aging and declining population and reduced tax base, while rural businesses leaders need to keep their workplaces updated and tap new markets.
Rural America is competing in the global marketplace, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to be the lowest cost provider of many of the mass-produced goods and services that have sustained rural economies in the recent past. In the North Central region, many rural communities are seeing population loss that is eroding their customer base. Communities that can foster an entrepreneurial
outlook among their population have a better chance of competing in today’s environment. Rural areas have many assets that can be strategically positioned for a more vibrant economic system if appropriate way of harnessing them can be identified. The center is especially interested in the following areas (in order of descending priority):