By Stephen Wilson

Easton will share the spotlight at the International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) annual conference as the Lafayette Easton Alliance (LEA) presents its work toward deepening the connections between the campus and community.

ITGA, based at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C., is the premier resource for addressing challenges, emerging issues, and harnessing opportunities between and among institutions of higher education and the communities in which they reside. Founded in 2008, ITGA has a membership that includes colleges and universities, municipalities, businesses, and strategic partners.

The ITGA 2021 virtual conference will be hosted by Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc., from May 24-26.

Lafayette students will present their work that targeted town-gown assets, not just challenges; longer-term problem-solving, not just meeting immediate needs; capacity-building of Easton businesses seeking to connect to Lafayette, and a hybrid management structure that is student-driven with support from the Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

LEA’s first project targets COVID-19-driven challenges facing Easton retailers and restaurants.  With guidance from Greater Easton Development Partnership, students researched local retail trends, effective practices in town-gown ventures, and explored retailer aspirations.  This informed a social media campaign to market services and products to Lafayette stakeholders through a “Buy Easton” effort, explore new business ideas, and strengthen retailer capacity for e-commerce and social media.

The LEA team includes Riley Larson ’21, Sarah Smith ’24, Michael Anekwe ’22, and Marty Johnson, entrepreneur in residence.

“When colleges pivoted to remote classes due to the pandemic, there was a domino effect on the surrounding towns. Impact was felt in many industries such as housing, retail, services, and restaurants,” said Emily Allen, ITGA board president and chief of staff, Colorado State University. “The ITGA 2021 conference will address ways to build new bridges back to balanced relationships.”

The three-day conference consisting of 60 sessions is focused on the theme “Innovating for Tomorrow Together.”

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