Monday, March 29, 2010

Rural Economic Development from the U of I

Lava Hot Springs
UI Horizons builds economic prosperity in rural Idaho towns

Boise--Residents of Albion, Dietrich, Eden, Hazelton, Richfield, and Shoshone are learning basic concepts of personal finance through Horizons classes taught by University of Idaho Extension Educator Lyle Hansen.

“Personal financial training is an important component of Horizons because of what our communities are facing,” says Hansen.“We have a lot of people in poverty,” agrees UI Extension’s Christi Falen, like Hansen, a Horizons coach.

“We’re building our communities’ capacities on every front that we can.”49 Idaho towns benefit. Horizons, a program that’s been building leadership and prosperity in rural Idaho since 2003, is a partnership between UI Extension and the Northwest Area Foundation.

Through Horizons grants, UI Extension has worked with 49 towns, all with populations under 5,000 and poverty rates of at least 10%. Currently participating in Horizons, in addition to the six towns benefiting from Hansen’s classes, are American Falls, Arco/Moore, Ashton, Challis, Georgetown, Heyburn, Lava Hot Springs, Menan, Ririe, Roberts, and Salmon.

Barbara Petty, UI Extension’s Horizons program director, estimates that 6,000 Idahoans have participated in the current phase three of the program through study circles, leadership training, community visioning rallies, and action teams.

“This has mobilized people to get things done in their communities that they’ve wanted to do for a long time,” she says.Computer classes at Roberts’ public library have residents of this eastern Idaho community doubling and tripling up on computers to learn about word processing, spreadsheets, Internet searches, and e-mail, says Horizons coach DaNell Hennis.

“More people are showing up each week.” In Challis, entrepreneurial high school students are offering movies twice monthly to area residents and donating proceeds to good causes in town and even in Haiti. Challis’ farmers market, a Horizons project that’s formed a co-op, mushroomed from 5 vendors to 65 in 2009—all within an 80-mile radius and offering everything from onions to flowers to crafts.

“A lot of them were making or growing these things before but never had an avenue for selling them,” says Turek. Last year’s sales: more than $15,000.UI’s future work with Idaho Horizons communities will focus on youth college readiness and workforce preparation.

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