What is the future of New Hampshire’s rural communities in a time of declining jobs, a shrinking middle class, loss of open space and increasing fuel costs? Through community partnerships, collaborative research, innovative problem-solving and $500,000 recently approved by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee with the help of New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, Plymouth State University researchers aim to find out.
The funds for Plymouth State are earmarked to establish an institute for the study and promotion of sustainable rural economics in New Hampshire. The collaborative, partnership-oriented work will support the efforts of other organizations and agencies to preserve and enhance quality of life in rural New Hampshire.
The Initiative for Sustainable Rural Economics, a joint project of PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships and Center for the Environment, will make the University a strong leader in the study of natural and human resources in rural communities. The initiative’s goals are to establish a Northern Forest Council of colleges and universities to oversee regional research and economic development; create an information center on sustainable, local and energy-efficient building materials and techniques for architects, builders and consumers; and coordinate an annual regional conference on rural economics.
In his recent announcement of the award, Sen. Gregg said, “This project will provide a new opportunity for those at local, state and national levels to work together to find solutions to the challenging economic conditions for rural areas. This forum will create a resource for innovative ideas to be discussed and researched on an issue that merits serious attention.”
The $500,000 will also be used for seed grant funds for small businesses and nonprofit agencies that seek to study and promote innovative and sustainable economic policies.
PSU President Sara Jayne Steen said of the grant, “With this funding, Plymouth State University’s Center for Rural Partnerships and Center for the Environment will work collaboratively with other organizations around the region to preserve and enhance our rural quality of life. University-based research and outreach will promote greater energy self-sufficiency, diversification of the rural economy, and conservation of our valued natural resources and fragile ecosystems.”
Center for Rural Partnerships Director, Dr. Thad Guldbrandsen added, “Plymouth State University is becoming an increasingly valued center of innovation, developing creative ideas for a new rural economy. This initiative will augment and enhance the work of the Northern Forest Center and the North Country Council that were recently funded through efforts of Sen. Gregg’s office.” He continued, “This earmark is recognition of the fact that Plymouth State has emerged as a vital center to study and work on the relationship between economy and ecology. These creative ideas acknowledge the importance of environmental stewardship to the future vitality of our communities.”