Dave Petritz, Director of Purdue Extension
This year marks a milestone for Purdue Extension —2005 commemorates our centennial anniversary. Since its inception in 1905 as part of the Agricultural Experiment Station, Purdue Extension has been integrating science and education to improve the lives of Indiana citizens. In the century that followed, the need for research-based information grew exponentially as the population and economy expanded in size and diversity.
Today, it is more important than ever that our educational programming targets the specific needs of individuals, communities and businesses at the state, regional and local levels.
One of the top priorities for Indiana—and, therefore, Purdue Extension—is to help rebuild, strengthen and diversify the state's economy. Through our initiatives, we've helped entrepreneurs plan and envision future economic opportunities, strengthened local leadership and governmental units, and provided job training for a changing workforce.
Economic start up
New business development is one of the paths that will lead the state to economic recovery. Central to Purdue Extension's economic resources is the New Ventures Team, a group of educators and specialists who provide technical and management assistance to entrepreneurs thinking about starting a new business.
Of 50 people who consulted the team last year, 19 later started a new business and credited the team's help. Among the ventures were an all-natural freezer beef business and an ethanol production facility. New Ventures also assisted in a study to create a community-shared commercial kitchen.
While Purdue Extension serves all types of businesses, we often help farmers explore alternative ways to make money while staying on the farm. Like other economic endeavors, an agricultural business needs guidance and educational assistance to succeed. Purdue Extension's “Nx Level Ag: Tilling the Soil of Opportunity” helped 19 entrepreneurs develop business plans. One year later, entrepreneurs had expanded their operations, improved marketing, hired staff and reduced reliance on off-farm income.
Due to the recession, Indiana lost billions of dollars in tax revenue. State and local governments have had to find alternative ways to generate funds. When the state phased out its business inventory tax, it eliminated the Indiana Enterprise Zone Program's primary incentive for attracting investment and creating jobs. Purdue researchers working with Indiana Legislative Services examined the economic and fiscal impact of job tax credits as new incentives. Their research showed that, while job credits don't cost the state much, they don't stimulate job growth in enterprise zones at the proposed $1,500 per job credit level. Because of the research, the state legislature is looking for other ways to sustain the Indiana Enterprise Program.
More and more communities turn to local, state, federal and private funding sources for support to meet local needs. In the past year, Purdue Extension grant-writing training programs have helped participants throughout Indiana secure more than $1 million in funded proposals.
Changes in the economy also dictate that Hoosiers need training and education beyond high school to develop the skills required for higher paying jobs in growth industries. In several Indiana counties, Purdue Extension helped create learning centers to teach adult learners such topics as computer business training, GED test preparation and Internet use. More than 7,500 people participated.
Planning for the future
With offices in all 92 counties, Purdue Extension is a gateway for people all around the state to access a wide range of economic development resources. One new tool is a Web-based business planner that entrepreneurs can use to help write a business plan that they can take to partners or financial backers. The online planner is a product of Purdue's Agricultural Innovation and Commercialization Center and the New Ventures Team.
Despite jobs losses and the recession, economic indicators suggest that both business owner income and self-employment income are on the rise—signs that point toward an improving state economy. Continuing to foster new business development and job creation is essential for ongoing recovery. Purdue Extension is committed to making sure that Indiana remains a good place to do business.
Making an impact
Each fall, Purdue Extension researchers, specialists and county-based educators complete “Impact” statements, progress reports on programming and research in agriculture and natural resources; youth development; human health; family and financial well-being; and community and economic development. Preparing these progress reports helps us to measure how well we're meeting the needs of our citizenry on an ongoing basis.
Instead of a collection of reports gathering dust on a shelf, we've created a Web site to make this information available for public review. We invite you to visit the Purdue Impact Web site to see how we find solutions to economic, social and scientific problems through research, education and Extension.