Romney, WV, Mar 20, 2014 -- USDA Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh this week visited the eastern panhandle of West Virginia to highlight ways USDA public/private partnerships are creating jobs and economic opportunity in rural communities.
“By working with communities and organizations with experience in regional economic development partnerships, USDA can make strategic investments that will improve the economy in a region that has had persistent difficulty with job creation and access to capital for many, many years,” Kunesh said. “Our funds can be leveraged with those from other agencies and private partners to increase the availability of capital.”
Kunesh met with local officials from Charles Town and Ranson to learn more about the planning process that has helped attract public and private investment to the region. Charles Town and Ranson began a regional, comprehensive planning process in 2011. Both communities have identified strategies to increase tourism and expand business throughout the region.
During her stop in the Charles Town/Ranson area, Kunesh also met with a representative of the Value Chain Cluster Initiative (VC2). This program, recently funded through the Jobs Accelerator Initiative, provides hands-on business development and coaching to strengthen local food and farm businesses in 17 rural West Virginia counties.
Many rural West Virginia business have benefitted from Rural Development’s assistance. Paul and Raynette Mock, owners of Mock’s Greenhouse in Morgan County, used a USDA Rural Energy for America Program grant to make energy efficiency improvements in their hydroponic greenhouse operation. The Mocks offer pesticide-free, locally grown produce year round. They transport it to farmer’s markets throughout the DC-Baltimore region and plan to double production capacity in the future.
“We are pleased to host Deputy Under Secretary Kunesh and her staff in West Virginia,” USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Lewis said. “We have so many innovative projects and outstanding programs to showcase, like those we’ve visited today.
“These projects clearly demonstrate the local capacity that exists in rural areas,” he added. “It is our job at USDA Rural Development to promote intensive community outreach in support of projects like these that are helping to create jobs for rural West Virginians.”
Kunesh and Lewis’ tour comes of the heels of a roundtable discussion held in Romney on March 14 to launch the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative in West Virginia. StrikeForce brings targeted assistance and support to 29 counties in West Virginia in persistent poverty. Hampshire County is included in the StrikeForce designation.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, community development, health, education, homeownership and affordable rental housing to improve the economic health of rural communities. In Fiscal Year 2013, the agency invested more than $410 million in the rural West Virginia economy through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants.
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.