WASHINGTON, Sep 19, 2013 -- The White House Rural Council met with officials from economic development districts, county governments and non-profit organizations to discuss ways to replicate successful regional economic development strategies.
“Innovative regional development can work especially well in rural areas because it helps communities share resources across boundaries such as county and state lines,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “By focusing on one or a few common sectors, regional development typically produces greater economic returns.”
The forum at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building is the second on regional economic development. The first was held in June 2012. Vilsack, who chairs the White House Rural Council, delivered the keynote address at this week’s gathering. Pennsylvania was represented by James Kelshaw, Hazleton Community and New Development Organization, Inc.’s Director of Economic Development.
USDA’s Rural Development mission area supports regional economic development through several programs, primarily operated through the Rural Business-Cooperative Service.
In addition to direct funding, these programs provide mentoring and technical assistance for regional development.
They complement a host of ongoing initiatives that support regional development. USDA’s Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, for example, supports measures to spur development through start-up businesses and emerging trends, such as light manufacturing and technological advances.
Another of USDA’s signature regional development activities is the Know Your Farmer/Know Your Food initiative. This links communities and regions through agriculture, transportation, value-added foods, specialty products, eco-tourism and other sectors that rely upon and benefit from production agriculture.
During this week’s forum, Vilsack announced the selection of 188 recipients for USDA Rural Development loans and grants, many of which support regional economic development. The funding is being provided through the Community Facilities program, the Intermediary Relending Program, the Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program and the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program.
Since the start of the Obama Administration, these programs have had a significant impact on rural communities. USDA’s Community Facilities program, for example, has provided technical assistance grants to help 150 communities launch economic development projects. These grants are in addition to nearly 1,000 awards for industrial development and public buildings and improvements. USDA has provided more than 15,000 loans and grants through its business programs since 2009, helping more than 60,000 rural businesses.
In Pennsylvania, Huntingdon County Business and Industry will be able to continue its regional economic development work because it has been selected for a $300,000 Intermediary Relending Program loan to support business development for public and non-profit organizations in Huntingdon County.
Also in Pennsylvania, Eccles-Lesher Memorial Library Association in Clarion County has been selected to receive a $6,200 Community Facilities grant to purchase equipment to manage its genealogical records, including a scanner, software, zoom lens, microfiche card, film carrier and computer.
Funding for each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement. View the list of recipients here. In total, Vilsack announced today more than $28.2 million in support for regional and economic development projects in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today’s announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources 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, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
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