September 30, 2010

The Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's newest initiative, is a consolidation and strengthening of the former UK Cooperative Extension Community and Economic Development program, said Executive Director Alison Davis. As such, it will help Kentucky's communities take on their most serious needs.

"Our goal is to be the first stop for anyone in the state who needs assistance with community development," Davis said. "Extension personnel, local community groups, local agencies-we hope they'll come to us when they're thinking about doing strategic planning, leadership development and economic development."

The new initiative seeks to empower individuals by engaging community members, incorporating the interests and cultures of the community in the development process and enhancing the leadership capabilities of community members, leaders and groups.

Often the door to a community is through its county Cooperative Extension office. Members of the initiative, which is identified by the acronym CEDIK (rhymes with medic), will be working to fully integrate community and economic development into the roles of county extension agents in family and consumer sciences, 4H Youth development, agriculture and natural resources and, in five counties, fine arts.

"One of the key concepts that led to the formation of CEDIK is that community and economic development should not be operated as a separate area of extension, but that it should be a core element of all programming," said College of Agriculture Dean Scott Smith.

Chuck Stamper is CEDIK's extension program coordinator. His job is to ensure the lines of communication are open between county extension agents and CEDIK. He said one of CEDIK's goals is to make sure agents have the resources to take their communities where they want to go.

"We're going to be more integrated," he said. "Instead of being a separate entity looking from the outside, we are going to be working more with those program areas to see how community and economic development programming can be integrated within their existing programs."

"CEDIK also embodies the land-grant philosophy of integrating research, instruction and extension in our service to families and communities," Smith said.

Davis sees that land-grant philosophy as being one of CEDIK's key strengths.

"This is more than an extension program; it is extension, research and instruction," she said. Coming from a research background, Davis places a strong emphasis on developing programs based on real research showing a positive benefit.

"We can offer technical assistance in terms of facilitation, leadership development, data analysis, entrepreneurship training, strategic planning, evaluation methods and overall the things you need to do to strengthen your community. You can also come in for specific program needs. For example, (Extension Specialist) Lori Garkovich works with agritourism, and I have a focus on alternative economic development strategies."

Other UK specialists who are part of the initiative include Ron Hustedde with his emphasis on entrepreneurship; Rick Maurer, who conducts extension programs in the areas of business retention and expansion, evaluation, and community health assessment and planning; Julie Zimmerman, whose specialty area focuses on community data and analysis; and Kris Ricketts, who develops and presents leadership programming.

The group will work closely with other UK groups, including MITT (Managing in Tough Times), the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative, the Center for Leadership Development and HEEL (Health Education through Extension Leadership).

For more information about the new Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, visit their website, or call program coordinator Sarah Bowker at 859-257-7272, ext. 246