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White House Rural Council Hosts Forum on Regional Innovation


Vilsack Announces Loans and Grants to Create Jobs, Support Regional Economic Development

WASHINGTON, Sept. 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. 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 funding announced today, the Fresno Community Development Financial Institution will be able to continue its regional economic development work because it has been selected for a $500,000 Intermediary Relending Program loan to support business development in central California. The organization will re-lend the money to public and non-profit groups that will establish revolving loan funds to support local businesses.

The Little Colorado River Plateau RC&D will receive a $50,000 Rural Business Opportunity Grant to provide forest-based business development services in the Cibecue region of Arizona. The organization coordinates technical and financial assistance programs for Native American and other residents of Navajo County.

The city of Albion, Mich., will receive a $32,000 Community Facilities grant to establish a community food hub and purchase commercial kitchen equipment. The project will allow hub operators to provide education and job training on food preparation and processing.

Funding for each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement. View the http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/supportdocuments/WHRC_News_Release_Chart_9182013.pdf here. 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.


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