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Tom Coon

Tom Coon: Leading MSU Extension into the 21st century (part 2)

Tom Coon talks with Kirk Heinze on WJR

Written by Julia Wendzinski

MSU Extension is going through a reorganization process to better fit the needs of Michigan’s citizens and communities. Tom Coon, MSU Extension director, discusses the details of the reorganization with Kirk Heinze.

The reorganization will implement four main focus areas for MSU Extension. One of these focuses is greening Michigan, an effort to leverage the human and natural assets of the state for prosperity.

Coon explains that greening Michigan can apply to everything from helping land owners in the Upper Peninsula come together to better harvest their land and benefit financially from it, to helping homeowners in Warren understand what they can do to reduce their own energy expenses.

“The natural assets are really special assets to the state of Michigan,” says Coon. “The way economic development needs to happen in the future is it’s going to be very local. Some regions of the state are really going to focus on using those local natural assets.”

The second focus of the Extension reorganization is preparing youth and children for the future. A successful program within Extension is their 4H program which feeds on young people’s curiosity in something that they want to do and helps them pursue that interest. 4H helps young people understand the value of their education.

“Higher education is going to be critically important for our workforce for tomorrow,” says Coon. “We need for our young people to go through college in order to be productive in the new knowledge economy and energy kinds of systems that are developing.”

MSU Extension is proud to report that 53 percent of students from the 4H program attend college at some point between the ages of 18-24, compared to a national rate of 34 percent and Michigan rate of 37 percent.

Another area of the reorganization will pinpoint agriculture in Michigan. A current effort includes developing urban agriculture and making use of the open spaces in cities.

“In our cities we have some large areas of land that are currently not being used for anything; many of those parcels could be turned into productive soils again,” says Coon. “This creates new economic opportunities in food production and it puts land to work where it currently is dormant.”

Coon explains that the reorganization of MSU Extension will be seamless.

“We’re going to do this with as little disruption as possible to people’s lives or our employees lives,” says Coon. “At the end of the day, they’re still going to have someone from MSU in their community, who cares about their community, and is responsible for delivering these kind of programs in their community.”

Click on the arrow above to hear part two of Coon’s May 14 Greening of the Great Lakes conversation with Kirk HeinzeGreening of the Great Lakes airs Fridays at 7 p.m. on News/Talk 760 WJR.

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