Rural Champion Community Program
- USDA Rural Development funded more than $171 million in development projects in Champion Communities since 1995;
- Other agencies have targeted funds and other initiatives to Champions;
- USDA Rural Development sponsored conferences to train community leaders and promote networking among communities;
- USDA provides targeted technical assistance to Champions and gave them preference points in applications for Rural Development funding.
List of Champions in the Program as of July 2010.
Rural Champion Community History:
In 1994, more than 180 rural communities organized and completed the valuable strategic planning process as part of their application for Round I of the Rural Community Empowerment Program otherwise known as the Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community Program (EZ/EC). To assure that their important work produced continuing benefits to these communities, USDA designated them as "Champion Communities" and provided assistance to them.
In 1998, 160 communities submitted applications in Round II of the Program, with 15 of the 25 newly designated rural Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Communities being Champion Communities from Round I.
In 1999, USDA formalized the Champion Communities program by inviting all eligible applicants to continue implementing their strategic plans by signing a Memorandum of Agreement with USDA.
In 2000, 110 Champions were designated Certified Champion Communities after revising their strategic plans and entering benchmarks in the Benchmark Management System.
In 2001, 55 eligible applications, including 25 from Champion Communities, were received during Round III of the EZ/EC Program. One of the two designated Empowerment Zones was a Round II Champion Community. The 18 first time applicants were offered the opportunity to become a Champion Community after met the certification requirements established in 1999. A number of these communities have signed Memoranda of Agreements marking the beginning of their Champion Community designation.
July 27, 2010, the Program ended.
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