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ECDI: A Quick Tour

April 26, 2009


We’ll dig much deeper into our programs and activities later, but I’ll just start with a brief overview. ECDI was created in June 2006 when the former Auburn University Economic Development Institute (EDI) and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Community Resource Development program joined forces. EDI, created in 1988, had developed a strong emphasis on both community and economic develop-ment, especially rural development, so the restructuring made sense. With the combined resources of Auburn University and Extension, we feel that ECDI is uniquely positioned to provide leadership for our state’s economic and community development.

Our mission is “to promote economic prosperity and improved quality of life for communities throughout Alabama.”ecdi_mission_blog1b This mission statement guides us in everything we do. Our strategic plan has four primary goals related to: 1) Education and Training, 2) Research and Communication, 3) Engagement and Consultation, and 4) Connections and Partnerships. Here is a thumb-
nail sketch of some things we do.

Education & Training: This year we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the two-week Intensive Economic Development Training Course. With over 800 alumni, including most Alabama economic developers, this is one of the best basic economic development courses in the country. The Alabama Prosperity Forum is an education program that offers short (1½ day) courses focusing on topics where Alabama economic and community development professionals have asked for more training. Unlike many such courses, the format provides opportunities for maximum participant engagement, including discussion roundtables and deliberative forums. ECDI also administers the AU Graduate Minor in Economic Development, which attaches to Master’s degrees in Agricultural Economics, Business Administration, Community Planning, Economics, Education, Public Administration and Public Policy, and Rural Sociology. ECDI is the home of the Alabama Community Leadership Network (ACLN), which connects, and provides resources for, adult and youth community leadership programs throughout Alabama.

Research & Communication: Our publications on rural issues, including Beyond the Interstate: The Crisis in Rural Alabama and Crossroads and Connections: Strategies for Rural Alabama, have significantly influenced rural development discussions, policies, and programs in Alabama. Our Uniontown research on civic engagement, sponsored by the Kettering Foundation, is used as an education, training, and research tool throughout the nation – and world. The research report has been translated into Spanish for distribution in Latin America. ECDI also publishes the quarterly ACTION newsletter. ECDI has an excellent website, what we believe is the state’s best online resource for economic and community development. Available on our website, our interactive Alabama Economic Development Resource Directory is the state’s most comprehensive resource guide for the economic development community. Additionally, the links page on our website provides the most comprehensive one-stop portal for updated economic and community development websites from Alabama and beyond. Other key features of our website include an interactive calendar featuring Alabama economic and community development opportunities, issue-specific articles and resources, and much more. Please take a look.

Engagement & Consultation: We work with many communities throughout the state. Our goal is to help strengthen the capacity of communities to solve their own problems. We see our role as “listener, connector and catalyst” much more than “expert”. We buy into the philosophy that it’s better to “teach a person to fish . . .”  We help with community assessment and asset mapping, leadership development, strategic planning, economic and fiscal impact analysis, and tourism strategies, among other things. We administer the Rural Alabama Initiative, funded by Extension, which, over the last three years, has supported 97 community projects throughout Alabama, many focused on youth and adult leadership and workforce development.

Connections & Partnerships: With a small staff, we know that to have maximum impact, we need to leverage our resources by working with others. So creating connections is central to our way of doing things and our primary message for communities. We are the home of the I-85 Corridor Alliance, a regional partnership of government, civic, business, and educational stakeholders dedicated to promoting innovation, prosperity, and collaboration along Interstate 85 in Alabama. We are founding members of the Alabama Communities of Excellence program (ACE), a public-private partnership that seeks to build the community and economic development capacity of small towns throughout Alabama. I currently serve as president of the ACE Board of Directors. This is a fantastic program and the state’s finest model of collective effort. We are also very active in serving on commissions, task forces, and other economic and community development organizations at the state, regional, and national levels.

ECDI Staff: Effectively carrying out such a wide range of ECDI programming requires a talented staff. Each ECDI staff member contributes across the full range of our programs, but has a primary area of responsibility:

  • Amelia Stehouwer (Research and Communication)
  • Artie Menefee (Leadership Development)
  • Mike Easterwood (Grant and Project Management)
  • Tom Chesnutt (Tourism)
  • Allyson Martin (Education and the I-85 Corridor Alliance)
  • Markie Southerland (Executive Assistant).

This summary description of ECDI provides just a glimpse at who we are and what we do. I look forward to talking more about our programs and staff as we blog along.


ECDI Website

Intensive Economic Development Training Course

Alabama Prosperity Forum

Alabama Community Leadership Network

Beyond the Interstate: The Crisis in Rural Alabama

Crossroads and Connections: Strategies for Rural Alabama

Alabama Economic Development Resource Directory

Rural Alabama Initiative

I-85 Corridor Alliance

Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) Program

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  1. April 8, 2013 2:34 pm

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