Washington DC, Sep 18, 2013 -- The White House Rural Council met today 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," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "By focusing on one or a few common sectors, regional development can produce 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 today's forum.
The White House Rural Council coordinates the Obama Administration's efforts in rural America by improving the effectiveness of federal programs. It works with public and private-sector partners on new ways to solve problems.
Attendees included John Morgan and James Baldwin, representing the Appalachian Spring economic development project in Southwest Virginia. This project received an $815,000 Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grant in 2012 to integrate downtown revitalization plans with cultural assets and natural resources. Also in attendance was Valerie Klinefelter of Central Sierra Resource Conservation and Development, in Jackson, Calif. The organization received a $250,000 Rural Business Opportunity Grant in 2010 to provide technical assistance for regional development. William Bolin of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments is representing the Copper Corridor Stronger Economies Together (SET) initiative. SET is a USDA initiative that helps rural communities bring together local stakeholders to development strategic economic development plans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) commitment to regional economic development spans several department wide initiatives. The The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative coordinates the Department's work on local and regional food systems to grow regional economies, preserve regional agricultural heritage and create additional opportunities for regional farmers and ranchers. USDA's Strike Force Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity aligns USDA resources to promote economic stability, job opportunities and regional growth in targeted high poverty areas. It leverages efforts with the private sector and community partners.
For more information on these initiatives and to read success stories, visit www.usda.gov.
During today's forum, Vilsack announced the selection of 186 projects for USDA Rural Development loans and grants to support economic development in rural communities, including 10 loans and grants in Kentucky totaling nearly $3.3 million. 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.
“These funds will play an important community and economic development role in rural communities in south and east Kentucky,” said Thomas G. Fern, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Kentucky. “I commend the leaders of the organizations selected for their commitment to area residents – they are important USDA partners for enhancing the quality of life and increasing economic opportunities in rural Kentucky.”
Funding for each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement. View the list of recipients here: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/supportdocuments/WHRC_News_Release_Chart_9182013.pdf
In total, Vilsack today announced more than $27 million in support for regional and economic development projects in 32 states and the District of Columbia. 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 overall 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 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.