Tri-State area earns federal designation
Carla Potts, deputy director for housing developments at the not-for-profit North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) speaks Thursday at the USDA Great Regions designation ceremony in Quincy, Ill. Great Regions is expected to help with development efforts in the 35-county region of the Tri-State Development Summit of Northeast Missouri, West-Central Illinois and Southeast Iowa.
The Tri-States is officially a Great Regions area.
The rare designation gives the 35 counties of Northeast Missouri, West-Central Illinois and Southeast Iowa that make up the Tri-State Development Summit another tool in building a stronger area economy.
Leaders of USDA Rural Development from the three states made the announcement during a ceremony Thursday at the Oakley-Lindsay Center in Quincy, Ill.
They said the Summit’s focus upon regionalism played a big role in the designation, and will be a key factor as the three states move ahead with housing, transportation, technology, business and health care projects.
USDA Rural Development Missouri Director Janie Dunning, a native of the northeast part of the state, called Great Regions “significant” and “prestigious.”
“This is a big deal,” Dunning said. “You have the ability to make some inroads with it.”
“Nothing works well without collaboration and cooperation,” said USDA Rural Development Illinois Director Colleen Callahan. “We look forward to making this great region even greater.”
“Rural communities can’t be islands,” said USDA Rural Development Iowa Director Bill Menner. “Rural communities have to work together.”
The designation resulted from the work of the Summit’s housing steering committee. The summit includes the 35 counties and has held nine regional events since 1996 to discuss common issues. The next summit is in Hannibal on May 7.
Carla Potts, deputy director for housing developments at the not-for-profit North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) in Bowling Green, was one of the people instrumental in seeking Great Regions.
“This designation is so important to this region that we care so much about, and to the future growth and development of that area,” Potts said. “Joining hands together through this national designation, we can share with others that the Tri-State region is a great place to visit, but it’s an even greater place to live and work.”
State Rep. Jim Hansen of Frankford also attended.
Great Regions comes with a commitment of support of federal support through fiscal 2015, including training, technical assistance and project funding.
There are only seven other Great Regions designees in the nation. The program was started by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a Southeast Iowa native and former governor.
To qualify, regions must have an economic development plan and show an interest in collaborating across geographic borders.
Dunning said the Tri-State area was a good example of how regionalism can lead to expanded opportunities, and cited the Barbara Mandrell song “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” in saying some parts of the nation still don’t get it.
“Working regional is a new concept for a lot of people,” she said. “There are a lot of places where regional still isn’t cool.”
Dunning told the audience of public officials, economic developers and business people that the opportunities under Great Regions are larger than the development challenges faced by the Tri-States. She urged participants to avoid falling into the trap of self-centeredness and “color outside the lines” and to “zig instead of zag” whenever possible.
“When we put our heads together and really work, we can make that money go farther,” she said.