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Oishei Foundation Grant Funds Regional Knowledge Network

By Rachel M. Teaman

Release Date: April 27, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- To help ensure that Buffalo Niagara has ready access to reliable information on critical regional issues, the John R. Oishei Foundation has awarded the University at Buffalo's Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth $336,371 to develop phase two of the recently launched Regional Knowledge Network.

Online at http://rkn.buffalo.edu, the Regional Knowledge Network (RKN) is a powerful new resource for the binational Buffalo-Niagara region featuring data, maps, lists and resources for 10 regionally critical topic areas, and dynamic user-driven tools for accessing such information. The institute launched the first phase of RKN in March 2006.

As a source of reliable information on the binational region encompassing the eight counties of Western New York and the Niagara Peninsula of Southern Ontario, RKN improves regional understanding and provides capacity for research and smart decision-making in the region. The site serves a diverse audience of government officials, regional leaders, community activists, researchers, students and citizens.

"This grant will allow the institute to take the Regional Knowledge Network to an entirely new level of sophistication," said Kathryn A. Foster, director of the institute. "The infusion of resources from the John R. Oishei Foundation enables RKN to become an extremely practical and valuable first-stop shop for regional information."

The two-year grant will support the addition of data and map tools to six RKN topic areas: Environment; Planning & Land Use; Health & Human Services; Public Safety; Civic Capacity; and Regional Assets. RKN currently offers data and maps for four of its 10 topic areas – Population & Demographics; Education; Economy; and Government. Additional elements of the second phase will include expanded content for all topic areas and new information tools such as pin-mapping capabilities, enhanced search options, charts, and advanced data analysis functions.

"We've recognized the importance of the institute's work for some time, particularly as it relates to being able to track and measure change in the region," said Thomas E. Baker, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation. "This grant will vastly expand the depth of information available to all kinds of community leaders as well as the ways in which it can be made useful to regional planning and evaluation."

Marsha S. Henderson, UB vice president for external affairs, said the Regional Knowledge Network is an important resource for the region. "RKN represents a powerful university-community partnership and demonstrates the tremendous value of applying UB resources to regionally relevant issues."

Over the next several months, the institute will contact key RKN user groups, including government, education, nonprofit and media representatives, to conduct training sessions and solicit input on site development.

"Building on the university's strategic strengths in civic engagement and public policy, RKN sheds light on regional issues and engages the community in the process of making better decisions" said Nils Olsen, Jr., dean and professor of law in the UB Law School.

The John R. Oishei Foundation's mission is to enhance the quality of life for Buffalo-area residents by supporting education, health care, scientific research and the cultural, social, civic and other charitable needs of the community. The foundation was established in 1940 by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Products Corp.

The Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth plays a vital role in addressing key governance and quality-of-life issues in the Buffalo Niagara region. A major research and public service unit of the University at Buffalo aligned with the UB Law School, the institute leverages the resources of the university and binational community to pursue a wide range of scholarship, projects and initiatives that inform regional challenges.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.