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Murray State, Kentucky League of Cities mark two years of economic development partnership

Murray State University

Murray State University and the Kentucky League of Cities have been collaborating to expand economic development efforts in the state through research and resource development. This week marks two years of partnership.

The collaboration, announced in 2021, supports locally elected leaders and economic development professionals across Kentucky by linking them with Murray State resources, including faculty, staff, students and decision-making tools produced at the far western Kentucky school.

“Economic development is always a top issue for local leaders, and KLC is continually developing tools and resources to help city officials take the steps needed to bring jobs and opportunity to their community,” KLC Executive Director-CEO James D. Chaney said in a university release.

Murray State University President Bob Jackson believes the partnership has assisted in improving the commonwealth.

“KLC is a wonderful partner, and our relationship of the past two years is helping build a better Kentucky,” Jackson said.

Chris Wooldridge is the director of Murray State’s Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Development. He said economic impact studies produced at MSU by people like Simone Silva, who serves as director for the university’s master’s degree program in economic development, have helped cities across the state.

“It's powerful for the folks that sit around that economic development board, trying to make a decision, whether they're an elected official or an appointed position. They may or may not be fully comfortable with making some of the decisions that revolve around the size of the economic development project,” Wooldridge said. “This gives them that information, it tells them based on what information we have available … what [a project] is going to do for the community.”

More than 100 Kentucky cities have worked with the far western Kentucky school on projects, including Ford Motor Company’s BlueOval SK development in central Kentucky – the largest economic development project in the state’s history – and a long-term recovery plan for Dawson Springs as it continues to recover from the December 2021 tornado outbreak.

Additionally, Wooldridge said, students in the economic development master’s program are able to intern and get hands-on experience in the field by working with partner cities on prospective projects. This experience for MSU students makes the partnership “invaluable” to the school.

“We have had multiple students and internship opportunities that have seen real world economic development projects firsthand. Not case studies, not textbook material, but actually working with a city on an economic development project,” Wooldridge said. “In some cases, we have interns that have done multiple projects, through our relationship with the Kentucky League of Cities they were in a position to put our students on the front line of everything they were reading in our textbooks … seeing it applied in the real world.”

KLC and Murray State leadership both indicated that the partnership would continue and possibly expand in years to come to fields like cybersecurity.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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