The University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) has received a total of $1 million to help spur regional economic development and innovation in southwestern Ontario.

The University will use a $500,000 donation from Libro Credit Union, along with two alumni gifts totalling an additional $500,000, to establish a new professorship in OAC.

The funding will support the Libro Professorship in Regional Economic Development for Southwestern Ontario for 10 years; the college will then provide base funding to maintain a permanent position.

“This is an important strategic step to enhancing regional development rooted in leadership and innovation,” said Rene Van Acker, OAC’s associate dean (external relations).

U of G and OAC have worked in community economic development and research in agri-food and resource economics for more than 140 years.

“It’s an ideal partnership to grow long-term prosperity for the region,” Van Acker said.

“This professorship will champion economic development and regional planning by pursuing world-class research, outreach and education, and by co-ordinating local, provincial, national and international expertise.”

He added that the research and training could be adapted and used in economic development initiatives across Ontario and Canada.

The professorship is expected to be filled in 2016, and will be based in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development with connections to U of G’s Ridgetown Campus.

Overall goals include:

  • identifying economic development strategies for southwestern Ontario;
  • strengthening links between rural and urban communities; and
  • encouraging Ontario’s post-secondary institutions and research facilities to work together on regional economic development.

“Southwestern Ontario has tremendous potential for economic growth and business development, especially in the food and agricultural industries,” said Steve Bolton, Libro Credit Union president and CEO.

“We’re very excited about the professorship and the University’s rich history of working in community economic development, agriculture, and food and resource economics.”

Matching $250,000 donations for the Libro gift come from gifts from OAC alumni George and Lorna Roberts and George and Geri Klosler. Both couples are farmers from Oxford County who have a strong interest in supporting both southwestern Ontario and OAC, Van Acker said.