Stephen F. Austin University: An Anchor Institution in Deep East Texas, PRP 222
Beyond its big skies, natural beauty, and small-town feel, Deep East Texas is home to Stephen F. Austin University (SFA), a Tier 1 higher education institution. SFA is positioned as a strong talent and innovation hub for a region that is ready for an economic development plan that considers the changing regional dynamics and prioritizes regional collaboration, employment, talent retention, business attraction, industry innovation, and quality of life. The Deep East Texas (DET) region is experiencing the same challenges that many rural regions face today: a high poverty rate, low labor participation rates, lackluster job creation, insufficient industry diversification, brain drain (talent leaving the region for urban cities), and a lack of social inclusion. Deep East Texas looks to SFA, the regional public university, to be an active participant in addressing these trends and moving the economy toward resilience. In 2021, the Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation (CARRI) was established to act as a bridge between the university and the community to address region-wide problems and further encourage collaboration. To fulfill its mission of supporting academic programs and boosting regional economic development, SFA partnered with the LBJ School of Public Affairs to build a plan that incorporates the strengths of the region and the potential of CARRI.