SFA’s CARRI and Texas Forest Country Partnership to host economic development forum

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation along with the Texas Forest Country Partnership will host the Nacogdoches Forum on Rural Economic Development from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 1 at the Nacogdoches County Courthouse Annex.

The public event will provide a platform for community stakeholders, business leaders and local elected officials to discuss their role in the economic development of their city/county. Presenters include Mary Ann Rojas, executive director of CARRI; Nancy Windham, TFCP president and CEO; and Dr. Mikhail Kouliavtsev, chair of SFA’s Department of Economics and Finance. The forum also features a collaboration session facilitated by Kelly Hall, president and CEO of the Longview Chamber of Commerce. A complimentary lunch will be provided.

“These events bring together all of the major stakeholders in each county into one room for a frank discussion about the relevant issues, challenges and opportunities ahead,” Kouliavtsev said. “It is our plan to summarize the results of all 12 of these forums and share some feedback with each county’s representatives. We also need to establish a baseline of conditions in our area against which we can measure any future improvements in growth, innovation, quality of life — ultimately, that’s the goal of CARRI.”

Kouliavtsev will kick off the forum by providing a snapshot of economic conditions in Nacogdoches County and comparing them with those in deep East Texas and the entire state. According to Kouliavtsev, this information will focus on workforce availability and preparation as well as job attributes that employers are seeking to fill: occupations, specific job titles, and the skills employers are looking for and whether prospective workers have them. The second part of the event will be Hall’s facilitated discussion.  

Community members and local municipal officials such as mayors, county judges, economic development representatives and industry leaders are encouraged to attend.

“Anyone with an interest in local economic issues would find the event helpful, including the discussions among presenters and attendees,” Kouliavtsev said. “I am also looking forward to learning from those in attendance — business leaders, elected officials — about what their experience is like navigating the challenges of local economic development.”

Some economic challenges attendees will discuss are similar to those other counties in the region are facing, including declining population, few employment opportunities for young workers and access to health care. However, according to Kouliavtsev, Nacogdoches County offers areas of growth including attainable real estate and educational opportunities.

Monica Loa, associate project director of CARRI, hopes different cities and counties can learn from each other at these sessions.

“This event is designed to provide each city and county a platform for discussion so they can increase their understanding of their role in the economic development of their communities,” Loa said.

Sessions are being offered in 12 deep East Texas counties. To register for this or the remaining county sessions, visit https://forms.office.com/r/RGs4cSHbkA. For more information, contact Loa at loamm@sfasu.edu.


By Parastoo Nikravesh, senior marketing communications specialist at Stephen F. Austin State University


Division of University Marketing Communications

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