BEMIDJI, Nov 23, 2010 -- Recovery Act a Boost to Rural Minnesota and Bemidji Region
When President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law in February of 2009, much of the attention focused on raw dollar amounts. Lost in this discussion was the long-term impact that these investments made in our communities, especially our rural communities.
There is no doubt that the Recovery Act has made an impact throughout the entire country. Over the last 30 days, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how the Recovery Act has benefitted the Bemidji area.
About a month ago, I visited TEAM Industries in Bagley to learn how a $7 million Recovery Act loan guarantee through the Community Development Bank of Ogema enabled a turnaround in company performance and entrance into the energy efficiency market. USDA Rural Development guaranteed the loan through our Business & Industry Loan Guarantee program. Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corp. also provided a low-interest loan.
The loan guarantee helped Community Development Bank invest in TEAM Industries and help the company compete globally while keeping jobs in Bagley. Without the Recovery Act, the loan guarantee may not have been possible.
Last week, I visited Kelliher to award the school district an $82,500 grant to install a library at the community center and make energy efficiency improvements to the facility. The grant was awarded through our Community Facility program and used funds made available through the Recovery Act. Of course, the project will create construction jobs in the near future, but its impact will last well into the future.
A community library means access to educational materials, computers and other resources. A more energy efficient building results in lower operating and maintenance costs. In the end, the project helps Kelliher retain population and position itself for future growth and development.
These are just a couple examples of Recovery Act funding benefitting the Bemidji region.
Throughout all of rural Minnesota, the Recovery Act allowed Rural Development to invest an additional $675 million over the last two years in projects to improve infrastructure, housing, facilities and job creation. These investments include:
• $330 million to help over 2,600 individuals and families buy homes or refinance existing home loans;
• $193 million to bring high-speed Internet to rural areas;
• $85 million to improve or replace 26 water and wastewater treatment systems;
• $36 million in loan guarantees that allowed nine businesses to create or save about 750 jobs;
• $31 million to build or repair 33 essential community facilities, including hospitals, community centers and libraries;
• $1 million in Rural Business Enterprise Grants to assist small rural businesses with gap financing.
Yes, those are some big numbers. But it is important that we do not bury ourselves in numbers when discussing the Recovery Act’s impact. Instead, consider how these investments benefited Minnesota’s rural communities.
These numbers represent increased home ownership, access to high-speed Internet to create new opportunities in education and telemedicine, modern infrastructure to clean up our environment, business growth to provide quality jobs, and better access to healthcare through updated hospitals and emergency response facilities.
These investments helped stabilize our economy in the short term, and will continue to pay dividends well into the future. Of course, there is still a lot of work left to be done to get our economy back to where it needs to be. This is especially true in rural communities.
The Recovery Act’s impact, especially from the perspective of USDA Rural Development, has been tremendous. That is especially true in the Bemidji region. However, our work is far from over. Rest assured that Rural Development will continue working to build on the success of the Recovery Act.
Colleen Landkamer is the state director of USDA Rural Development in Minnesota. To learn more about Rural Development, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/mn, or call the local office in Bemidji at (218) 751-1942, ext. 4.