|(AUGUST 1, 2012) OP-ED: HELPING OUR RURAL COMMUNITIES GROW|
|Lincoln, Nebraska, Aug 01, 2012
@@As America recovers from the recession, President Obama and Secretary Vilsack understand that folks in our small towns and rural communities are helping lead the way.
But the fact is, people in rural America also face a number of unique challenges. Many still don’t have access to modern broadband internet, and in too many cases our rural towns rely on aging infrastructure to provide vital utilities.
All of us in the Obama Administration share the President’s sentiment in giving all Americans a fair shot, including those in rural America, where our values as a nation and our “can-do” spirit as a people are rooted.
On our watch, USDA has made record investments that strengthen the rural economy, strengthen rural communities, and maximize opportunity for folks who call rural America home.
For example, since 2009, USDA has invested in new and improved broadband service for nearly seven million rural Americans and more than 360,000 rural businesses – including 11,718 residential subscribers and 3,460 businesses that benefited a total of 15,178 in Nebraska. When these broadband projects are announced, they spur businesses to invest in communities and help drive job growth. They also create additional jobs as they are being built, and even more jobs when the networks become operational and are available to rural communities and businesses.
Southeast Nebraska Communications Inc. utilized broadband Recovery Act funds that benefited 3,000 people, 50 businesses, and 20 community institutions. This project created jobs up front and ongoing and continues to drive economic development.
Over the past three and a half years, USDA also contributed to the overall revitalization of rural American infrastructure. The Obama Administration invested in more than 6,250 community facilities – such as libraries, clinics, police and fire stations – that serve nearly 29 million rural Americans. For this same time period, Nebraska has invested in 67 community projects.
For example, Pawnee City had outgrown its current library and with Recovery Act funds leveraged with other funding today the residents are enjoying a 6,500 square foot library with all new amenities that meets the community’s needs.
Through distance learning and telemedicine programs in more than 5,700 schools and medical facilities, the Administration has improved the availability of health care and educational opportunity for rural families. Nebraska has assisted by bringing distance learning and telemedicine services to 307 sites.
Just recently, a distance learning grant was announced for Educational Service Unit 16 in Ogallala, Nebraska that will provide for a system-wide upgrade to outfit schools with video conferencing equipment and includes the addition of a telecommunication bridge in the vast, sparsely populated area of Southwest Nebraska.
Under President Obama, USDA has helped modernize rural electric systems for more than 25 million Americans with funding for more than 90,000 miles of new or upgraded electric line. And we’ve invested in more than 5,500 water and waste water treatment projects, to help safeguard the health of 20 million rural residents. Nebraska has assisted in 48 water or wastewater projects, the most recent being the City of Crete which will build a new treatment plant for the City’s sewer system.
These stories are playing out across the country – so while we all recognize America is in a time that requires fiscal belt-tightening, we also know that smart, targeted investments are needed to give rural businesses and communities a competitive advantage in the global market.
President Obama and Secretary Vilsack know how important rural America is to our strength as a nation. And through these important investments, USDA is committed to ensuring that hard-working folks in our small towns, those who are creating so much for our country, don’t get left behind.