By ANN HINCH
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Jason Henderson pulled double duty at last week’s talk during the Financial Health of Farming and Land Values symposium at Purdue University. Not only was he presenting a program on interest rates and the economy, it was a chance for anyone who didn’t already know him to learn more about this new director of Purdue extension.
His appointment last week came on the heels of a new extension logo and motto in a new year. A few months ago, extension unveiled its updated “Local Faces, Countless Connections” tagline, and its newest connection is the vice president and a branch executive with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. But he isn’t entirely new to the West Lafayette campus.
Henderson, 40, who will also serve as associate dean of the Purdue College of Agriculture, earned his master’s in agricultural economics and a Ph.D. at Purdue. Currently he’s still working for the Fed’s Omaha (Neb.) Branch, but is set to start his new job May 28.
He will replace Jim Mintert in this position, who was appointed interim associate dean and extension director in late 2012 to replace outgoing five-year director Charles Hibberd (who had also come to the job from Nebraska).
Right now, he is the K.C. Fed’s regional economist and representative in Nebraska and is responsible for briefing the Fed branch president on economic and business activity in the state. His research focuses on regional economic issues, including rural economy, and he is responsible for publishing the Tenth Federal Reserve District’s quarterly survey of ag credit conditions.
“In many respects, I’m the equivalent of (an extension) county educator, in the Federal Reserve system,” Henderson explained.
Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample dean of Purdue Agriculture, agreed. “While Jason has a Ph.D. from Purdue in agricultural economics, he has not worked at a University; that said, he has done
‘faculty/extension-like work’ for many years,” he explained.
Akridge said Henderson has led the engagement/outreach activity of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank and done much applied research on economic issues facing agriculture and rural communities, in many cases, partnering with Purdue faculty on this work.
“So, he is certainly familiar with extension and research in a different context. I believe he brings the best of both the academic and the government (and) private world to the role,” Akridge said. “He brings a real passion for outreach/extension to the role, but also brings a fresh set of eyes on what we do. He has an especially strong background in economic and community development.
“And, he has a deep understanding of the economic issues facing agriculture. All of these experiences, perspectives were things that attracted us to Jason as a candidate.”
Henderson works with the branch’s board of directors, too, which he said includes a wide range of bankers and community and business leaders – including farmers. Part of what prompted him to go to work for the Fed, he said, was it was an opportunity to interact with communities and help the institution make better decisions.
Henderson said he grew up on a small dairy farm in Arlington, Iowa, in addition to his economics career. Like Akridge, he believes he can bring to Purdue a different perspective on how institutions interact with people, with his “quasi-government, quasi-business” mixture of experience.
Especially in the last five years’ recession, he said the Fed’s focus has been on communication and transparency and “how to reach out to community and business stakeholders.” People, Henderson explained, need to understand what the Fed is and what it does.
As for extension’s reach in Indiana, he said one of his goals is to make sure more people understand what all extension has to offer, even outside of rural areas. And it’s not just urban dwellers who may not know there are programs to help them – he said within the ag industry, there are people who don’t know what all extension does offer.
“In his new role, he will continue to represent Purdue extension nationally, and I am sure he will continue to make presentations on agricultural and rural issues to national audiences,” Akridge said, acknowledging that Henderson now travels frequently to speak for the Fed. “That said, he will be speaking far more at county extension board meetings, to Indiana extension audiences (as the director).”
Prior to his current position with the Fed, Henderson served as senior economist with the Center for the Study of Rural America, also at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Central College in Pella, Iowa.