University Centers collaborate with other EDA partners, such as Economic Development Districts (EDDs), by providing expertise, applied research, and technical assistance to support regional economic growth. Southern Utah University (SUU) and Utah Tech University have a joint University Center and is working with Snow College to begin a long-term collaborative project with two local Economic Development Districts (EDDs) called the FutureReady Utah Worksite Ecosystem Project. This joint service area of the two EDDs, the Five County Association of Governments (AOG) and Six County AOG, is a very rural area comprising roughly 40% of Utah, but only 11% of the total population. Over half of that population resides in Washington County in the far southwest of the state. This area is very rural and has lower educational attainment levels compared to the state.
SUU began collaborating with Utah Tech in 2018 to develop micro-credentialing programs to help workers get higher paying jobs. The in-migration of workers with higher education levels had taken many of the higher paying jobs in the area, while residents were pushed into lower paying jobs, showing a demand for other training opportunities. The ‘Great Recession’ was painful for employers in the area, and is what brought SUU, Utah Tech, and Snow College into partnerships with the local EDDs in 2021. Building on the schools’ previous work with micro-credentials, the partnership with EDDs has deepened the schools’ relationship with local businesses by allowing for greater targeting of programming so that specific credentials can be developed to match training needs.
Economic development is a common good for a region. Being clear with all partners about the goals, responsibilities, and benefits of the partnership is key for keeping people working together. In Utah, counties are big and can contain both cities and rural areas; it isn’t enough to have a regional strategy, there is a need to get granular. Each member of the partnership should celebrate each other’s successes loudly, as if they were their own, to make sure policymakers understand the progress that is being made, and the necessity of it. A convener is needed to bring economic development, education, and businesses into the same room, as this builds trust, and regular meetings keep small issues and misunderstandings from becoming big issues; a university center has that capability. The growing partnership of the SUU, Utah Tech University, and Snow College with the two EDDs shows the successes that can result from intentional, collaborative partnerships.
Learn more about this partnership here.