News Release
Release No.STELPRD4016675
ContactTammi Schone605-352-1102
Rapid City, SD, May 24, 2012 --

@@Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager today toured several projects financed by USDA Rural Development and highlighted the agency’s long-standing support for South Dakota communities.

“Rural Development helps increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents,” Tonsager said. “Since its creation in 1935, the agency’s name has changed, but the mission has remained and grown.”

During a visit to South Dakota this week, Tonsager met with businesses, residents, and stakeholders about Rural Development programs that assist with electric, water, sewer, hospitals, schools, housing, businesses, and cooperatives to name a few. Some highlights of projects funded over the years include:

    1962 - Rapid Valley Sanitary District is the oldest organized rural water system in South Dakota. Much of the existing water treatment plant was constructed in the early 1960s. Rural Development has partnered with Rapid Valley Sanitary District since 1962 providing more than $8 million in loans and $67,000 in grants that have had a tremendous impact on the quality of life for thousands of rural South Dakotans. With the original Rapid Valley system, estimated construction cost was under $1,200 per user; today’s cost can be as high as $25,000 per user. The original Rapid Valley system projected water user rates to be around $8.33 per month; with today’s costs at $26.00 per month per user.

    1998 – The Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota was awarded, through USDA Rural Development, an Empowerment Zone designation; chartered under the name of Oglala Oyate Woitancan (OOW) Empowerment Zone. This is the only Empowerment Zone in the United States that was solely designated on an American Indian Reservation to a tribal entity. The designation covered 10 years with an investment of more than $16 million that was tied closely to a 10-year strategic plan with achievable goals and benchmarking activities.

    2002 - Big building, big dream…In June 2002, the SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club, built on the eastern edge of Pine Ridge, held their grand opening ceremony. At the time, it was the largest Boys and Girls Club facility in the world and became home to the 10-year old Pine Ridge organization, the first of its kind in Indian Country. The project was a result of four years of efforts spearheaded by USDA Rural Development. The SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club will be hosting a 20-year celebration on June 2, 2012.

    2007 – Avera, a regional health system with 29 hospitals in a four-state region including South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska has received almost $3 million to purchase telemedicine equipment that rural facilities may not otherwise have been able to secure. Avera has 198 physician clinics and wellness facilities, 21 long-term care facilities, 14 senior apartment buildings and 13 assisted-living facilities. Avera’s system serves 51 South Dakota counties and employs more than 13,200 individuals, making it South Dakota’s largest employer. Avera has one of the largest and most comprehensive telehealth networks in the United States. A large portion of the funding to develop the Avera telemedicine program has been awarded through the USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.

Between 2009 – 2011, USDA Rural Development has invested more than $1.1 billion in projects benefiting rural South Dakota residents, including $214 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Tonsager noted that USDA Rural Development has funds available through the Single Family Housing Direct loan program to help more rural families become homeowners. Rural Development will join communities in South Dakota and throughout the nation to celebrate Homeownership Month in June. Supporting homeownership is one of many ways that USDA Rural Development is helping contribute to the nation’s economic recovery. For details on rural homeownership opportunities, interested parties should contact the nearest USDA Rural Development office. A list of these offices is available on Rural Development’s website: USDA also has additional funding opportunities coming soon to help rural businesses in South Dakota and in every other state.

Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President is committed to using Federal resources more efficiently to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.