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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce


Spotlight: The Economic Development Leadership Institute

February 2015 Newsletter

Guest Column by Michael Casson
Director, University Center for Economic Development and International Trade (UCEDIT) Associate Professor of Economics Delaware State University

Caption below
Leadership Fellows with SBA Administrator from left: Maurice Harris III; Zachary Corrothers; Maria Contreras Sweet, SBA Administrator; Audrey Scott-Hinson, DSU Administrator; Dr. Michael H. Casson Jr., UC Director; and Jamal Maddox.

The economic development challenges faced by the U.S. are often concentrated in communities plagued by low educational attainment, high crime rates, low income levels and limited financial and physical capital.  These communities are disenfranchised and underrepresented in the public arena and can be found in both urban and rural environments.  Delaware State University's (DSU) student population represents many of the urban environments of the Northeast that are both disenfranchised and underrepresented.  Thus, the question was, "How do we identify and train tomorrow's economic development leaders?" More specifically, "How do we empower the youth in our most economically challenged communities with the prerequisite skills for successful economic development within their own community?"

DSU’s Center for Economic Development and International Trade (UCEDIT) is a recent recipient of the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) University Center award.  The purpose of this funding is to leverage the resources of the University to support the economic development initiatives of the State of Delaware.  The success of UCEDIT, as well as other entities throughout the country with the same charge, is contingent on the development of young economic development leaders who are often products of these environments.  The economic development, growth and sustainability of a community are contingent on both Economic Development Education and Leadership.

With this thought in mind, UCEDIT, with the support of DSU's Agriculture Extension program, founded the Economic Development and Leadership Institute (EDLI).  The purpose of the EDLI is to provide underrepresented students with theoretical, practical and experiential learning in the field of economic development while introducing and cultivating the tenants of effective leadership in developing economies both domestic and abroad.  Since its inception in the Spring of 2014, UCEDIT has garnered key partnerships from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC); the City of Dover, DE; Kent County, DE Economic Partnership, Delaware Economic Development Office; City of Wilmington, DE, City of Smyrna, DE and the City of Milford, DE.

Their economic development training includes the following key components:

  1. Economic Development Training: EDLI Fellows are receiving their primary economic development training (six courses in total) from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).  The Fellows have already completed the Introduction to Economic Development and Business Retention and Expansion courses.
  2. UCEDIT Fellow: Fellows transition from Junior Fellows to Senior Fellows within EDLI (from year 1 to year 2).  Fellows are currently supporting research and outreach projects identified by UCEDIT throughout the course of the academic year. 
  3. Internship: Junior Fellows will be placed in an internship during the summer following their first year with one of our partnering economic development agencies mentioned above.  The internship will require Junior Fellows to commit 20 hours/week for eight weeks.
  4. JUICE Chapter: Fellows are currently in the process of chartering the first Juxtopia Urban Innovation and Cooperative Entrepreneurship (JUICE) chapter at DSU.  The JUICE chapter is a college/university organization that trains students with urban entrepreneurship skills required to innovate and commercialize high-tech products from their institution and that solve some of the most “painful” problems afflicting surrounding communities. 
  5. Experiential Learning: Fellows tour economic development initiatives throughout the region with the leading economic development professionals responsible for the project’s completion.  The Fellows have toured downtown Baltimore, MD and learned about the economic development strategies.  Several more tours are scheduled for this year.
  6. Speaker Series: Fellows are engaged by leading economic development professionals in the country through our guest lectures series.

Travel Abroad: Senior Fellows will be afforded an opportunity to travel abroad to countries in Western Africa to apply their economic development knowledge to real-life development efforts.  Fellows are currently supporting a team of leading researchers in their evaluations of a Trade Hub in the ECOWAS region of Western Africa.