Ecomomic & Business Development

Economic & Business Development

Stronger Economies Together

set_logo_finalStronger Economies Together (SET) empowers communities and counties in rural America to work together in developing and implementing an economic development blueprint for their multi-county region that strategically builds on the current and emerging economic strengths of that region. Creating, attracting and retaining jobs as a single rural county in isolation from other nearby counties is becoming increasingly ineffective. In today’s global marketplace, economic development progress is more likely to be realized when rural, suburban and urban communities work together as a region to assess their resources and then design and implement plans that build on their assets and comparative economic strengths.



Stronger Economies Together: A National Initiative Spurring Regions to Build Stronger, More Vibrant Economies

Since its official launch in 2010, the Stronger Economies Together (SET) program has had one goal in mind – to spur a core group of contiguous rural counties to work together in designing and acting on a high quality regional plan that builds on its major economic assets. With major funding provided by USDA Rural Development and coordinated at the national level by the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) at Mississippi State University, SET has emerged as a premier program that helped strengthen the economic vitality of rural regions across the U.S. Today, more than 30 states and dozens of regions have been a formal part of the SET program, and the plans that many of these regions put in place have garnered millions of dollars that have allowed these regions to build a stronger, more vibrant economy for their regions over the long term.

Core SET Topics

Regional teams involved in the SET program are introduced to a wealth of information and “hands-on” activities that are designed to help strengthen their ability to successfully plan and implement a high quality regional plan. Topics introduced in the SET sessions include:

  • Conducting a Regional Civic Forum
  • Exploration of Regional Data
  • Evidence Based Planning
  • Connecting Capitals
  • Finalizing a High Quality Regional Plan

The Indiana SET Program: Advancing Regional Collaboration

Purdue Extension and the Purdue Center for Regional Development have partnered with the Indiana Office of USDA Rural Development (RD) to sponsor, deliver and expand the Stronger Economies Together (SET) program in the state. Indiana is one of 31 states selected by USDA Rural Development to be part of the network of SET programs across the nation.

The Indiana SET program is intended to help rural counties band together to design and implement a strong regional economic development blueprint, one that builds on the economic strengths of that multi-county area. The Purdue/USDA team provides extensive technical and capacity-building support to Indiana regions that have been formally accepted into the SET program, all at little or no cost to the region.

Applying for the Indiana SET Program

Given that the Indiana SET program is part of the national SET initiative, only when a formal “call for proposals” has been announced by the Purdue Center for Regional Development, Purdue University Extension or the Indiana Office of USDA Rural Development can an existing or proposed regional group submit an application for possible acceptance into the SET program. The “call for proposals” typically occurs once a year.

Determining a Region’s Eligibility

Any regional group that meets and embraces the following core elements of the SET program can apply:

  • The Rural Requirement: 51 percent or more of the region’s population should be classified as rural OR 75 percent of the land in the region should be located in its rural areas.
  • Three or More Contiguous Counties: The proposed SET region should be composed of a minimum of three contiguous counties.
  • A Diverse Regional Team: A diverse, representative group of people and organizations should be part of the SET regional team.
  • Study Regional Data: The team should be willing to give careful study to a wide array of sound data that can help it discover the region’s economic strengths and opportunities.
  • A Solid Regional Plan: A high quality regional economic development plan that serves as the blueprint for action should be a concrete outcome of the team’s work.
  • Input from Local Residents: Inviting residents to weigh in on the region’s proposed regional plan should be supported by SET team members.


Michael Wilcox

Michael Wilcox

Community Development Assistant Program Leader