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Success Story: Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Economic Development through EDA and Historically Black Colleges and Universities

In late 2020, EDA collaborated with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation to host a webinar series entitled, “EDA and HBCUs: Cultivating Strategic Engagement for Regional Economic Development.”

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Historically Black Colleges & Universities logo

The webinar series addressed the critical juncture of COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on communities that are under-served and under-resourced. This webinar series harnessed EDA’s commitment to elevating the dynamic work of HBCUs through its Economic Development District (EDD) collaboration and its ability to convene powerful interagency partners through its Economic Development Integration (EDI) team.

The webinars featured three HBCU University Centers located in the Atlanta, Austin, and Philadelphia regions, and presenters from Delaware State University, Fayetteville State University, Morgan State University, and Southern University and A&M College. EDA's University Center Economic Development Program makes the resources of universities available to the economic development community.

Through this dynamic partnership, academic institutions make resources available to the larger community, acting as hubs of innovation and economic development. Speakers discussed the tools, programs, and partnerships their schools provide, sharing challenges and successes as well as future plans for impact.

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Malika Mercer-Bennett, Director of the UC at Fayetteville State University and a photo of the front entrance to the school

Malika Mercer-Bennett, Director of the EDA University Center at Fayetteville State University (FSU), emphasized how HBCUs have sought to identify and address regional community needs since the first schools were established in the nineteenth century. FSU’s impressive regional planning and workforce development efforts have resulted in substantial economic gains within the surrounding Cumberland County region. In 2016, the value of the school’s impact on Cumberland County economy was calculated at approximately $712 million.

Ms. Mercer-Bennett shared that the $712 million in economic activity includes the creation of 2,441 new jobs, and $3 million in new revenue that was generated through state and local taxes. Additionally, FSU supports inclusive engagement within its region through a robust offering of programs including a workforce development program called 3-Plus-3-Plus-3, an accelerated medical degree aimed at graduating doctors to serve in Cumberland County and beyond. This university is just one example of the power and impact that HBCUs have in driving economic development in an innovative and inclusive manner.

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Fayetteville State University

Three separate regional webinars occurred over a two-week period, and each presentation was framed by information from EDA leadership describing how HBCUs could engage with EDA’s tools, programs, and partners to strengthen ties and to further progress. Webinars concluded with an interactive question and answer session. The sessions attracted upward of 100 attendees each, with a variety of regional representatives from HBCU personnel and leadership, Economic Development District organizations, and other regional partners.

For more information and to view recordings of the webinars, please visit EDA’s University Centers page.

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