The University of Louisiana at Monroe's Social Science Research Lab recently partnered with other Louisiana universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host a workshop titled, "Strengthening Agribusiness and Rural Development Opportunities in Northeast Louisiana."
The workshop was held Oct. 28 at the Delta Rural Development Center in Oak Grove.
LSU–AgCenter Director Dr. James Barnes said one economic development goal of the LSU AgCenter's Delta Rural Development Center was to bring together local, regional and state institutions. Workshops such as these provide opportunities for entrepreneurs in agriculture and other sectors of the rural economy to grow and learn collaboratively, he said.
"We're excited about this new collaboration and look forward to strengthening rural development efforts in northeast Louisiana even more," said Barnes.
The USDA presented ideas for rural businesses to consider, including e-commerce for value-added commodities and alternative energy grants. Alternative and renewable energy has been a focus for the SSRL for the past three years, according to SSRL Co-Director Dr. John W. Sutherlin.
"ULM and the SSRL must take a larger role in working with rural communities to encourage development and finding partnerships with like-minded universities," Sutherlin said. "Whether in assisting in grant-writing or in holding workshops, the SSRL will continue making northeast Louisiana stronger."
The SSRL involved several students in researching and organizing the event. Jordan Van of West Monroe, Julie Salter of Farmerville and Anita Owens of Monroe all gained experience in rural development issues through organizing and attending the workshop. The students also received course credit.
"It is one thing to hear about these issues in class, but to see the interaction between government, universities and rural businesses makes it all much more real," said Van. "There is a lot of potential for growth in northeast Louisiana."
The SSRL is looking at holding additional workshops in northeast Louisiana over the next few months, according to Sutherlin.