PARIS, Tenn., Jan 19, 2012 -- USDA Rural Development Area Director Harriet Cannon today joined Tennessee Secretary of State Trey Hargett and Henry County Mayor Brent Greer to celebrate changes to the W.G Rhea Public Library made possible thanks to a unique federal-state partnership.
"The disproportionate economic hardship many rural Tennesseans have endured as a result of the recession is no secret," said Cannon. "Unfortunately, these same people are less likely to have access to the training and other resources available with high speed Internet at home."
"Public libraries are a natural place to bridge this gap," Cannon said. "More adult workers turn to them every day; to search and apply for jobs online, access training to expand their skills, apply for assistance and seek answers to health, legal and other issues aggravated by unemployment."
Through separate RD Grants, the library was able to upgrade their computers and associated software as well as make upgrades to the facility itself. A $21,700 Community Facilities Grant was combined with $17,809 in private donations to renovate the flooring throughout the library with modern tile and carpet, replacing the previous flooring. In addition to the new flooring, a $2,883 grant was combined with $16,339 from the state to purchase and install $19,222 worth of new computer equipment including 12 new computers, a projector, printer and a router giving the library the tools to meet the changing needs of the community for years to come.
The expanded computer and Internet access at W.G. Rhea Public Library is part of the Tennessee Library Initiative, a federal-state partnership between the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the Office of the State Librarian and USDA Rural Development. Together they are investing more than $1.2 million to increase the capacity of 70 small libraries to provide workforce training and increase educational opportunities for the communities they serve.
Cannon said, "By partnering with the State, we are able to expand the educational and workforce development opportunities local libraries make available for families and individuals of all ages."
Rural Development community programs finance construction or improvements to essential services like reliable access to clean water, wastewater treatment, healthcare, education, job training, first responders and emergency facilities. Loan-guarantees encourage private lenders to expand the availability of affordable financing in rural communities. Direct loans and grants create sound financial opportunities for local governments to meet essential infrastructure needs.
Others participating in the event included Rep. Stephen Fincher’s Representative Dale Hendon, State Representative Tim Wirgau, Paris City Manager Carl Holder, Paris-Henry County Chamber Director Jennifer Wheatley, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development field representatives Blake Swaggart and Janna Hellums, Northwest Tennessee Development District Executive Director John Bucy, Northwest Tennessee Human Resources Agency representative Melinda Goode, Henry County Alliance Executive Director Larry Crawford, Regional Library Director Susan Blakely, W.G. Rhea Library Executive Director Connie McSwain and RD Area Specialist Brenda Horner.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, homeownership and affordable rental housing in rural communities. Last year the agency assisted tens of thousands of Tennessee families and businesses, investing more than $737 million through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants.
For more information on Rural Development programs available in northwest Tennessee contact the Rural Development Area Office in Union City at 731-885-6480 ext. 4, toll free at 800-342-3149 ext. 1497 or visit us online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 TDD (615) 783-1397.