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UK Initiatives Earn 'Best Practices in Economic Engagement'
Kentucky Ag Connection - 10/13/2020

Two innovative University of Kentucky programs have received Awards of Excellence from the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) for "transforming their campuses into engines of economic prosperity through leading edge initiatives."

The Southeast Kentucky Downtown Revitalization Project, a program within UK's Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK), won the "Place" category award, and the Food Connection at UK won the "Place + Innovation" category award. Both programs are housed in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

The winners were announced during the UEDA's Virtual Summit hosted last week in Pittsburgh.

"UK is very honored to be recognized on a national stage by UEDA members," said George Ward, UK Economic Development Collaborative (EDC) coordinator. "Congratulations to Lilian Brislen, Melody Flowers and Alison Davis for their years of great results working on these projects and for the impressive job they did during the presentations at the summit."

Leading initiatives from across North America competed in a six-month process, including application, peer review, online presentations, and, ultimately, selection by attendees of the UEDA Annual Summit as category leaders.

"When we started The Food Connection just over five years ago we were given a brand new dining contract, a blank slate and a mission to build a vibrant farm-to-campus initiative that would grow our local food economy across Kentucky," said Lilian Brislen, executive director of The Food Connection. "This award is a testament to the University of Kentucky's commitment to the land-grant mission and our role as an anchor institution, the innovation embedded in our dining partnership with Aramark, and the creativity and ingenuity of our local farms and food community. I am grateful every day for the chance to do this work with an amazing team of colleagues and our passionate local food community, and thankful for the recognition conferred to our community by this award."

"It's an honor that CEDIK's work is nationally recognized for its contribution to economic development," said Alison Davis, executive director of CEDIK. "The CEDIK team is a unique composition of innovative leaders and they have worked so hard over the last three years to empower communities in Southeast Kentucky to act boldly. We are thrilled to be selected as a model of excellence."

In addition to these projects, Flowers and Davis also hold leadership positions with the EDC at UK, working with a multidisciplinary team of colleagues to proactively grow economic prosperity in the Commonwealth by focusing on the areas of talent, innovation, place and partnership.

"Never before has economic engagement of higher education institutions been more critical to our economic redesign," said Tim Hindes, UEDA executive director. "UEDA's model of highlighting best practices in economic engagement continues to locate, highlight, and recognize those initiatives that best exemplify sustainable models that are making remarkable, positive impacts on regional economic ecosystems across North America."

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