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Kent State Receives $225,000 Federal Grant to Assist Rural Communities

Posted Dec. 15, 2011

Kent State University will receive a $225,000 economic development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist businesses in rural Ohio communities. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the selection of Kent State and 35 other organizations in 26 states and the District of Columbia for grants to help rural cooperatives and small businesses expand, create jobs and strengthen their capacity to serve rural citizens and communities.

Kent State’s grant will be used to provide assistance to small communities by transitioning small businesses to worker-owned cooperatives.  Kent State’s Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC), recognized as a Cooperative Development Center by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will administer the grant.

The OEOC, a non-profit outreach center of Kent State, supports the development of business across Ohio and around the world by its proven efforts to save jobs, create wealth and grow the economy.

“We are pleased to receive this grant to help promote and build cooperatives and cooperative activity in rural America,” said Roy Messing, OEOC program coordinator.

“We’re conducting outreach, providing technical assistance and one-on-one training where appropriate for private businesses that are looking to transition their existing company to employee or worker-owned co-ops,” Messing said. “We’re also working with individual groups who are interested in forming a business under the worker cooperative model.”

The other Ohio organizations among the grant recipients are the National Network of Forest Practitioners in Athens and the Ohio State University Research Foundation. Messing says he works with both institutions on a regular basis to provide services for the all areas of the state.

“These grants help cooperatives support local projects and initiatives that create jobs and improve rural economic conditions,” Vilsack said. “The USDA is proud to continue its support of local and regional efforts to bolster these cooperatives and help them bring increased value and economic opportunity to rural residents.”
The grants are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant program. Under this program, grants of up to $225,000 may be awarded to colleges, universities and non-profit groups to create and operate centers that help individuals or groups establish, expand or operate rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses. Grants may be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, and help businesses develop new markets for their products and services.
Overall, Vilsack announced more than $7.9 million in economic development loans and grants.  A complete list of nationwide projects is available at

“2012 has been designated the International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations,” Messing said. The OEOC will be expanding its outreach and educational activities to spread the word about cooperatives’ contribution to the economy, according to Messing.

Funded by federal and private foundation grants as well as by contracts for fees for services rendered, Kent State’s OEOC provides information and preliminary technical assistance concerning broad-based business owner succession planning and worker-owned cooperatives.

For more information on Kent State’s OEOC, visit

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Media Contacts:
Roy Messing,, 330-672-3028
Bob Burford,, 330-672-8516