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," 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 Council, delivered the keynote address at this week's forum.
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, "Two key leaders from Maine are participating in this important meeting of the White House Rural Council. Sunrise County Economic Council Executive Director Harold Clossey, and Northern Maine Development Commission Executive Director Robert Clark are participating in today's conversation on creating economic development strategies in rural communities. These organizations are valuable partners in promoting economic growth for businesses and community organizations in Washington and Aroostook counties, and are critical partners in Maine's Great Regions Initiative."
During this week's forum, Vilsack announced the selection of 187 projects for USDA Rural Development loans and grants to support 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.
In Maine, the following organizations will receive a total of $1,203,400:
• Coastal Enterprises Inc., in Wiscasset has been selected to receive an Intermediary Relending Program in the amount of $1,000,000. The funds will be used to provide low-interest loans to public and non-profit organizations to relend for business and community development. Coastal Enterprises, Inc. anticipates it will assist eight businesses resulting in 128 jobs impacted (creating 64 and helping to preserve 64).
• Region Two School of Applied Technology, in Houlton, has been selected to receive a Community Facility Grant in the amount of $24,000. Funds will be used to convert the current heating system from oil to pellets, benefiting the environment and contributing to the biomass economy.
• Trustees of Bloomfield Academy, in Skowhegan, has been selected to receive a Community Facilities Grant in the amount of $50,000. Funds will be used for the installation of a fire suppression system for the Skowhegan Free Public Library. The library not only provides traditional library services but plays an important role in IT connection for many rural residents in the community.
• Four Directions Development Corporation, in Orono, has been selected to receive a Rural Business Opportunities Grant in the amount of $44,400. Funds will be used to foster business development and asset building through basic computer, financial and business literacy training, enhanced by ongoing business technical assistance. As part of the organization's Wabanaki Asset Building Initiative, the program will assist Native entrepreneurs and artisans in advancing skills for making their businesses more prosperous and sustainable.
• Washington-Hancock Community Agency, in Machias, has been selected to receive a Rural Business Opportunity Grant in the amount of $35,000. Funds will be used to support the Incubator Without Walls (IWW) and Entrepreneurship for Enterprising Youth (EEY) programs. IWW provides participants with business training, technical assistance, and business counseling. As a complement to the IWW program, WHCA plans to roll out its first ever EEY program. This program is for high school juniors and seniors who have demonstrated an interest in creating their own business or earning a living through self-employment.
• Quoddy Tides Foundation, in Eastport, has been selected to receive a Community Facility Rural Economic Impact Initiative Grant in the amount of $50,000. Funds will be used to complete renovations to the Holmes Building in Downtown Eastport. The improvements will assist in creating regional and community studio space for local and visiting artists along with improved accommodations for the community cultural and educational services to all interested.
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. 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.
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. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.
USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than
$828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.
USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 62 employees working to deliver the agency's Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine. USDA Rural Development invested a total of $402.5 million in Maine communities last Fiscal Year. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/me.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).