Earlier this month, I was privileged to participate in the signing of a Proclamation confirming a regional partnership through the Stronger Economies Together (SET) Program, one of the Presidential Initiatives. The Old Trails Regional Tourism Partnership has been chosen as one of the initial two regions in Missouri to participate in the Stronger Economies Together (SET) program. This will be pilot program utilizing an integrative approach to assessing, composing and executing a regional economic development plan that capitalizes on the assets and complies with the goals of the region.
Approximately 36 representatives of the partnership were present to sign the Proclamation. The excitement was high, and the anticipation of working together was evident. Old Trails Regional Tourism Partnership includes the rural counties of Carroll, Chariton, Cooper, Howard, Lafayette and Saline. The region follows the course of the original Sante Fe Trail, an area rich in heritage and natural beauty. Initial partnering organizations within the region include: Boonslick Tourism, City of Higginsville, Friends of Arrow Rock, Lafayette County Wineries, Lexington Tourism, Marshall Chamber of Commerce/Saline County Tourism, and the Old Trails Regional Tourism Board.
The program was created to help encourage rural counties to work together to develop and implement a regional economic development strategy. Within Missouri, the SET program is a joint collaborative initiative between University of Missouri Extension and USDA Rural Development.
Additional partners include Missouri Departments of Economic Development and Agriculture, Missouri Economic Development Council, US Dept of Commerce/Economic Development Administration, and the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. The regions partners and community development leaders will develop comprehensive regional economic development strategies based upon their region’s unique assets.
The regional collaboration and strategic partners are two of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s seven strategies for economic development. This initiative highlights President Obama’s belief that small remote rural communities don’t have to be stand-alone economic engines but can partner together on a regional basis for sustainability.
I look forward to working with this partnership as it strives to support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents in Missouri!