Skip to main content

Rural

Working with the Private Sector, Guaranteeing Affordable Housing Opportunities in Rural America

Groceries, childcare, education, transportation, insurance, utilities: these are just some of the essential places families nationwide spend their paychecks every month. Making ends meet takes hard work, but sometimes even after working long hours and shopping right families need help to make it.

Twenty years ago essential affordable housing opportunities were scarce in rural America. Banks weren’t investing in these opportunities because deals that would build affordable rentals required long-term, patient capital that turned profit much slower than those big, new, luxury apartments in cities and larger towns.

Learning Through Listening: Convening with the Navajo Nation

“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”—Navajo proverb

Last month, Rural Development and the Navajo Nation convened an economic development workshop involving an array of leaders and stakeholders from across the Navajo Nation and 14 Federal partners in Crownpoint, N.M. The convening gave me a chance to meet with Navajo Nation officials, university representatives, private business owners and nonprofit administrators.  All were focused on improving the economy and quality of life throughout the Navajo Nation.

Taking Charge: How Rural Residents Are Switching from Employees to Business Owners

The retirement of the baby boom generation of business proprietors is predicted to result in a major turnover in ownership. Developing an ownership succession plan is especially challenging in rural areas where many small businesses are at risk of closing from the lack of locally available financing to keep them in operation. Rural Development’s Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program now has new capabilities as of this August that specifically accommodate the needs of financing ownership succession.

B&I guarantee borrowers can now apply to loans for financing the transfer of business ownership within a family, usually involving a sale from parents to children. Prior to recent changes in the rules it was assumed that within families the transfer of ownership was always a seller-financed transaction. Yet, some retiring business owners may need to immediately take the sales revenue out to finance their retirement.

Making a Promise in Puerto Rico

When Roosevelt Roads Naval Base ceased operations in 2004, the surrounding region suffered a significant population and financial loss. The land transfer process from the Navy to the local government created the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), entity with the responsibility of leading the rebuilding process and revitalization of the former base and the adjacent communities of Ceiba, Fajardo and Naguabo. The collaboration between the LRA and the communities seeks to improve public infrastructure and renovate economic activity in the area, as well as improve access to health care, improve educational opportunities, reduce crime, and spur job creation.

The area served by the Roosevelt Roads LRA in eastern Puerto Rico was recently designated a Promise Zone by President Obama. This designation made the region eligible for funding that can help them develop job training for a modern workforce, improve access to education, and provide for the development of improved public safety and affordable housing.

Una Promesa para Puerto Rico

Cuando la Base Naval de Roosevelt Road cerró operaciones en el 2004, el área cercana sufrió una baja poblacional y una gran contracción. Como parte del proceso de transferencia de terrenos de la Marina de los Estados Unidos al gobierno local, se creó la Autoridad de Redesarrollo de Roosevelt Roads (LRA). Esta organización es la encargado de dirigir el proceso de planificación y revitalización de los terrenos de la antigua base junto a los municipios de Ceiba, Fajardo, y Naguabo.

El trabajo de colaboración entre estas comunidades y  la LRA busca mejorar la infraestructura pública y renovar la actividad económica del área, mejorar el ofrecimiento de servicios médicos y educativos como también crimen y la creación de empleos.

Find Your Town, a New Tool Promoting Small Towns from the White House Opportunity Project

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.

HHS and USDA Collaborating Since 2012 to Improve Local Access to Healthcare in Rural America

It has been five years since the President announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signed an agreement to streamline how our programs work together to support rural health and to improve the health and wellbeing of rural communities through the use of technology and health information that is accessible when and where it matters most.

In those five years, rural communities and rural health care providers in every state and territory have accessed USDA financing and HHS technical assistance to help improve local access to care and, and to support an interoperable health system.

Returning Veterans Put Down Roots with USDA

After 21 years of dedicated service in the United States Air Force, Jim and Laura Leffel looked to establish their “forever home.”  Both natives of the Midwest, they moved to a small farm south of Eau Claire, Wisconsin to plant their roots, quite literally.  Laura and Jim are now owners of Leffel Roots Apple Orchard, a 40 acre property that includes 2,500 apple trees and an on-site store where they sell bakery items, jams, cider, honey and more.

With the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Leffels will be able to expand their product lines further.  Last month, I visited their orchard with Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind to announce the Leffels were among 325 recipients of Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) funding totaling over $45 million. 

A Hero in Farmville

When I met Henry Smith in March, he told me about how two months earlier he stepped off of a plane and onto Belgian soil for the first time in more than 70 years. He said the setting was immediately familiar to him.

“It’s going to snow,” he said to his family as the chill in the air and low-hanging clouds echoed conditions he remembers vividly from January 15 and 16, 1945.

Empowering America: USDA's Cooperative Month Celebration

October is National Cooperative Month, and this year, USDA is helping to focus attention on the multiple ways cooperatives help build more vibrant communities and improve the livelihoods of their members. USDA’s theme for the annual celebration is: “Co-ops Empower America, USDA Empowers Co-ops.”

Cooperatives are a versatile business model that can address many needs, such as affordable housing, utility services (including electricity and broadband), agriculture production (including local foods) and can help convert existing businesses to worker ownership.