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University of Illinois Extension

Asset-Based Economic Development

March 11, 2013

University of Illinois Extension is an active partner in a regional asset-based economic development approach to economic development. This approach is a bottom-up strategy that builds on existing local resources to strengthen local and regional economies. Asset-based economic development focuses on a community's natural environmental, socio-cultural and economic advantages and how these can be leveraged into sustained economic growth and productivity. It focuses on building capacity in communities and strengthening connections within regions.

For asset-based economic development to be successful, it requires strong leadership at both the local and regional levels. It requires innovation, collaboration and a rethinking of traditional economic development paradigms. Asset-based economic development can have many benefits for communities, including:

In January, a series of vertical asset mapping discussions were held around Workforce Development, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Quality of Place and Community Development. Mason County hosted a discussion on Quality of Place at Willet's Winery in Manito. More than 200 individuals participated in the series of discussions identifying local and regional assets. University of Illinois Extension staff worked with local government and economic development leadership in generating summary reports. Each set of assets will be evaluated to determine their potential benefit to the local economy as part of a regional economic development strategy.

Focus Forward CI is a top-down/ bottom-up asset-based economic development strategy designed to engage all populations in a regional effort to transform mindset, economic performance, environment and leadership in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and Mason Counties. You can learn more about this process by visiting the following website: http://www.focusforwardci.com/ Source: ICMA Center for Sustainable Communities, Asset-Based Economic Development and Building Sustainable Rural Communities.

For more information about the Community and Economic Development programs in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Extension unit, please contact Kathleen Brown, Extension Educator, Community and Economic Development at brownlk@illinois.edu or 309-255-9189.

Source: Kathie Brown, Extension Educator, Community and Economic Development, brownlk@illinois.edu

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