Did You Know?: Purdue Center for Regional Development

September 20, 2012  


Vic Lechtenberg (left) and Sam Cordes founded the Purdue Center for Regional Development in 2005.
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Like a sprawling spider web, regional economies often spread haphazardly, regardless of boundaries found on a map.

That's the concept behind the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Founded in 2005 by Vic Lechtenberg, now acting provost, and Sam Cordes, professor emeritus of agricultural economics, the center provides resources for regions around the country to achieve robust economic development across city, county and even state lines.

"Regional economies have little respect for geopolitical boundaries," says Lechtenberg, the center's director. "Yet many economic development professionals are constrained by county, city and state boundaries in their economic development thinking. PCRD has provided a framework and convening capacity to allow these very difficult regional conversations to occur."

The center has worked with self-defined regions in areas ranging from Alaska to Florida, although it most frequently works with regions in Indiana, Cordes says. It focuses on helping public and private agencies, organizations and institutions work together to determine how best to improve regional economies.

For example, the center often holds panels, conferences and workshops in key regions to discuss hot-button topics -- such as the impact of immigration, local education and health care on the areas' economies -- and policy issues, such as how best to attract new businesses.

The center also sometimes develops and leads grant-funded initiatives. In 2007, for example, the center led a $15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant given to a 14-county area that included Tippecanoe County. The program provided 21st century job training to more than 16,000 workers. More than 3,600 were placed in new jobs in fields that employ science, technology, engineering or math.

In addition to its direct work to build regional economies, the center offers myriad tools for entrepreneurs and policymakers, Cordes says.

For example, the center houses the Indiana Small Business Development Center, which Purdue, Indiana University and Ivy Tech Community College operate collaboratively. To support economic decision-makers, the regional development center has developed a system of nationwide maps of natural and urban resources.

PCRD collaborates with academic units across campus; over the years, the center has incubated and supported several initiatives that their partners have built upon. One is the Entrepreneurship Academy. Operated by the Purdue Research Foundation, the academy is a weeklong summer workshop for high school students interested in high-tech business start-ups.

"In a short period of time, PCRD has become highly recognized as a thought leader in regional development and collaboration," Cordes says. "The center's work has resulted in local residents thinking and rethinking their approaches to economic development in a way that has been most beneficial."

Cordes, who retired as a center co-director last year, says the search for a new, full-time director will conclude in the coming months.

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu

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