PVAMU’s Cooperative Extension Program Awarded $800,000 for Development in Waller, Liberty Counties

Members of the Cooperative Extension Program (CEP) at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), Jimmy Henry (PI) and Bridget Ross (Co-PI), were recently awarded $800,000 by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross stated, “the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is investing $48 million in the state of Texas to help it prepare for natural disasters and promote economic resilience and business growth.”

Jimmy Henry

“We are very grateful to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for generously funding this project, as well as Dr. Corey Bradford’s office (PVAMU’s Office of Business Affairs) for providing matching support,” said Gerard D’Sousa, Ph.D., Dean of PVAMU’s College of Agriculture and Human Sciences. “By leveraging our USDA capacity funding, this grant will go a long way toward rural workforce and community development in Liberty and Waller counties, both profoundly affected by and still recovering from natural disasters.  By creating certification programs in areas such as welding, electrical, construction, and nursing, the proposed ‘Rural Workforce Academy’ formed as a result of this grant can serve as a model for similarly affected areas in the state of Texas and beyond,” he said.

Funds for the project will go to designated Opportunity Zones, created by President Donald J. Trump’s Tax Cuts, and the Jobs Act of 2017, to spur economic development. The money will provide tax incentives to investors in these economically-distressed communities throughout the nation.

Bridget Ross

Henry said, “Often, rural communities lack the resources and opportunities of an urban city. And, it’s typically not economically feasible for training agencies to operate outside of major metropolitan areas. Our partnership with the Economic Development Administration will allow us to provide hands-on skills training and job placement for rural participants at no cost. We aim to decrease rural unemployment and increase the skilled labor force in rural communities, so employers are more likely to hire from within the areas they serve.” The award will provide a boost to economic development by supporting a rural workforce partnership to cultivate skilled workers, creating jobs, and strengthening the local economy in disaster-impacted areas.

Magesh Rajan, Ph.D., Vice President for the Research, Innovation, and Sponsored Programs, said, “PVAMU faculty and staff are not only involved in basic and applied research and innovation, but also lead in the areas of commercialization, entrepreneurship, and economic development. Such activities are critical for the state of Texas to promote economic resiliency and business growth, especially for the regional community.”

“In addition to creating jobs, cultivating, and certifying local skilled labor workers and student entrepreneurs,” said Ross, “our pilot rural disaster workforce development and job placement program is designed to foster alliances between industry partners and local community organizations to build economic growth and resiliency. The success of the program in Waller and Liberty Counties will build on the motto of “Live Here – Work Here – Grow Here.”

To learn more about the award and how it will impact communities, contact Jimmy Henry or Bridget Ross in PVAMU’s Cooperative Extension Program.