Earlier this month (April 17th) Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA chief scientist and Under Secretary for USDA’s Research, Education and Economics mission area, facilitated a White House Rural Council roundtable meeting at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in Mason City, Iowa.
One of the key topics of discussion during the roundtable, which was attended by more than 40 local business owners and students, focused on the variety of ways community colleges can help create new job opportunities, especially in rural areas.
One week before her visit to NIACC, USDA announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the American Association of Community Colleges that highlights a key White House Rural Council goal to expand access to training and higher education for rural citizens and strengthen the rural economy.
NIACC, through its John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, plays a key role in creating jobs in north central Iowa. The center offers business tools and education opportunities including avenues to explore financial resources, business plan development and networking sessions. The community college is home to a new business incubator that provides a nurturing environment where new businesses can develop and grow during those challenging first few years of existence.
The college also propels the entrepreneurial spirit through a business accelerator program that assists new businesses in reaching their venture-funding and business growth goals.
USDA Rural Development has provided regular financial assistance to NIACC’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.
The signed MOU spells out ways that community colleges and USDA will continue to work together to provide training and higher educational opportunities to rural residents and work to build sustainable regional economies.
The MOU will calls for the participants to:
- Facilitate increased cooperation between USDA Rural Development and the rural community colleges, to leverage partnerships and work together to strengthen the rural economy:
- Establish working groups to coordinate Rural Development’s financial and technical resources with private sources of assistance to better serve educational institutions;
- Develop outreach and technical assistance models for rural educational institutions;
- Co-sponsor events such as conferences, seminars, webinars and other networking events;
- Hold joint events to identify and remove potential barriers to resources or services.
Dr. Woteki said the MOU is important to rural economic development and will help speed the transfer of technology from the laboratory setting to the hands of entrepreneurs and new business startups.