Alcorn State receives grant for economic development work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2000

Alcorn State University, which has been expanding its role in economic development in Southwest Mississippi, has received a $261,000 grant for its rural entrepreneurial program.

The program focuses on the five counties served by the Center for Rural Life and Development — Adams, Claiborne, Jefferson, Franklin and Wilkinson.

According to School of Business Dean John Gill, the grant, administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will pay for someone to travel among the five counties to implement the program’s economic development goals, which include serving existing businesses and encouraging new entrepreneurs. He likened that person to a &uot;circuit rider&uot; who will visit each county one day a week.

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The rural entrepreneurial program will provide services in several aspects:

AG-HOPE — Agriculture Helps Our Business People Learn — which provides youth entrepreneurial training in agribusiness

BISNET — Business Information System Network — which is a nationwide initiative of USDA to assist entrepreneurs and small farmers by providing computers in the local area to access the site and gain information on business plans and new agriculture technology

Entrepreneurial Initiative, which will allow the project to employ a business specialist.

A partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which serve a five-state area and assist small farmers in marketing their products through establishing cooperatives.

&uot;We’re going to be coordinating this with the Small Business Development Center,&uot; Gill said, adding that the programs have similar goals.

Gill emphasized that the grant is actually only a small part of the university’s economic development plans for Southwest Mississippi.

He pointed to Alcorn President Clinton Bristow’s term &uot;communiversity&uot; to describe why the school is interested in fostering new and existing businesses in the area.

&uot;I think the demographic data speak clearly to that,&uot; Gill said. &uot;Economic development is important not only to the five-county area but also to the 11-county area that makes up Southwest Mississippi.&uot;

Alcorn State, along with economic development leaders in Natchez and Adams County and surrounding counties, has also been working on a plan to develop a small business incubator in the five-county area.

Such a facility would help foster new small businesses by housing them in one location where they can share equipment and services, which would in turn keep overhead low.