Charming, historic, cozy, vibrant, quaint and fun. Small towns and rural places hold a special place in our vision of America. They offer residents a unique and often genial place to live. Visitors and those just passing through come to enjoy distinct lifestyles, commerce, and countryside. Yet, many rural towns have trouble promoting themselves and planning for a vibrant future. That is why we are helping to launch Findyour.town.
At USDA Rural Development, we know small towns may also be unaware of how our programs can help them thrive. We help build new fire stations, provide affordable housing, help expand a local business, strengthen broadband infrastructure in their community and so much more. To get the word out, we are working with The Opportunity Project, a White House initiative to expand access to opportunity for all Americans by putting data and digital tools in the hands of families, communities, and local leaders, to help them navigate information about the resources they need to thrive. Private sector tech developers and federal agencies come together to build digital tools that help address critical federal policy challenges, get information directly to the people we serve, and put federal data to use in innovative new ways.
The White House brought us together with the technology developer Ovela. And, over the last several months, we worked together to build a website called Findyour.town, which is already helping small towns market their strengths and track down resources and funding opportunities through USDA.
Ovela’s expertise and creativity with mapping, data, and web design is combined with Rural Development’s rural expertise, programs and an impressive set of data resources. The result is Findyour.town, a website built to help small communities tell their stories and chart their paths forward. Users—be they local government officials, economic developers, regional planners, tourism boards, small businesses, or others—can take advantage of the site’s user-friendly tools to upload photos and videos of their community, create presentations and maps, and become part of the searchable database of America’s small communities, each with its own distinctive qualities. They can also seamlessly link to information about their eligibility for Rural Development programs and existing Rural Development investments in their town and in peer communities.
Throughout my time at Rural Development, we have been working hard to strengthen our relationships with the customers and partners who utilize, study, and help improve Rural Development’s programs. We are sharing data and building tools to expand the reach of our investments and tap the full potential of our programs to strengthen the vitality and quality of life in America. For example, we recently released data on our Single Family, Multi-Family, and Community Facilities programs on Data.gov and in PolicyMap.com. In doing so, the public gained access to USDA’s Multi-Family Program Exit Data, and is now helping us identify properties at risk of paying off their mortgages, leaving our program, and no longer qualifying for rental assistance essential to keeping apartments affordable to tens of thousands of families and individuals across the Nation.
We are excited to launch Findyour.town. It will be an invaluable resource that will continue to grow in the future. We encourage you to check it out and put it to use for your community at https://findyour.town/.