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Strategic Planning, Thoughtful Leadership Bring Leveraged Investments, Community Vitality to Small-Town West Virginia

I’d been told the neighboring towns of Ranson and Charles Town, West Virginia, are vibrant communities where people want to live, work and raise a family. During a recent visit with local leaders and USDA’s community economic development partners in the area, I saw first-hand how regional approaches and partnerships are attracting public and private investment to the region that make this quality of life possible.

Along with WV Rural Development State Director Bobby Lewis, I recently convened a discussion with the mayors and city planners of the two towns to learn more about their successes and strategies. I learned that Charles Town and Ranson are thinking big, re-imagining their future, and developing a blueprint for their long-term economic viability. You see, by working together to develop comprehensive objectives and plans, the communities have been able to leverage grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new businesses, transportation links, and affordable housing. And in 2011, USDA contributed an important piece, providing funding through a Community Facilities Direct Loan for a much needed ambulance shelter.

USDA Partners with a Michigan Town to Improve Quality of Health Care

Cassopolis, located in southwest Michigan, recently celebrated the ground-breaking for the new USDA Rural Development supported Cassopolis Family Clinic.  Like many rural communities, Cassopolis has limited facilities for health care, particularly for low-income residents.  The Cassopolis Family Clinic was founded more than 50 years ago to serve the surrounding community and the facility will bring that service into the future.

USDA Rural Development was represented at the event by Paw Paw Sub-Area Office Team Leader Lisa Epple, who was joined by local leaders and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

A Thanksgiving Treat--Local Foods for Schools in a Minnesota Community

On a fall morning in Mrs. Jones’ sixth-grade class in Tracy, Minn., students are learning how to make pumpkin pudding.

Instead of using a can opener to pry the lid off cans of pumpkin, a real pumpkin is being used. And not just any real pumpkin, a pumpkin that came straight from a local garden and into the classroom.

The classroom isn’t the only place in Tracy Elementary where local foods are becoming more prevalent. The lunchroom also features more foods grown by local producers and served in school lunches.

USDA Funds Upgrade Storm Sirens in Four Rural Minnesota Communities

Tyler, Minn., is a long way from New York City, but the small-town of 1,143 people has something in common with the Big Apple: Both have recently had to deal with major weather events.

Obviously, the destruction and devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is on a much wider scale than what Tyler experienced when a tornado leveled homes and businesses on July 1, 2011. But both disasters highlight the importance of emergency preparedness, whether you live in a high-rise in midtown Manhattan, or on a farm in Tyler.

Rural communities face unique challenges when dealing with emergency response and major weather events. It’s essential that small towns have the latest technology and equipment to keep residents safe during an emergency.

California Residential Drug Treatment Center Project Moves Forward With USDA Support, Creating an Estimated 400 Jobs

Most people are unfamiliar with the town of Grass Valley, California- a small rural area located in the pocket of northern Nevada County with a population of 12,860 and 4.7 square miles of land. So, just what can someone find in this small town? A lot of community support and dedication. This commitment was apparent at the groundbreaking ceremony for Community Recovery Resources’ new Center for Hope facility, a residential drug treatment center.

USDA Rural Development Makes New Library Dream a Reality for a Small Kentucky Community

Despite below-freezing temperatures and high-wind advisories, more than 50 residents of Hardinsburg and Breckinridge County, Kentucky, turned out recently to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new public library. The crowd included local high school students, city and county officials, library board trustees and members and local law enforcement.

Idaho Residents Receive Improved Fire Protection Services thanks to USDA Recovery Act Funds

Wow, the first emergency call out of the new fire station.  As I pulled into the driveway of the new Heyburn, Idaho, Fire Station for the ribbon cutting, I was greeted with the red lights flashing on the fire truck as the fire crew rushed to their call.   Initially, I thought about how much faster the crew can respond to the family who needs their help due to the improved location of a new station, thanks in part to the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Direct Loan program, with funds for this particular station being provided through the Recovery Act of 2009.   But then my thoughts turned back to the two days prior, when the volunteers gathered at the new station for an additional training session.   Some of the volunteers on that truck were the same volunteers at the training, who were once again taking time away from their paid jobs, to ensure their neighbors and employers have access to the same emergency services that I take for granted living in the Boise metropolitan area.

A USDA Community Facilities Direct Loan Helps Build a New YMCA Building in New Hampshire

The Keene, New Hampshire YMCA has been operating for 125 years in this town of 22,563 residents. A few years ago, Jack Duggan of Monadnock Economic Development Corporation mentioned to me that the Y was looking toward its future and a new facility. And so the links in the chain started to build toward bringing a new Y to Keene and surrounding rural communities.

Scott Johnson, our Community Facilities and Business Programs Specialist and I met with key people from the Y, as well as Keene’s Mayor and City Manager. The Y’s board membership is made up of local leaders and business owners including the area’s largest employers. The board launched an awareness campaign, and organized a 45-member volunteer committee that eventually raised the largest not for profit fundraising campaign in the region’s history.

Thanks to USDA, Vision Becomes Reality for Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate

In the mid-1970’s, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (Sioux Tribe) relocated from a small tribal office building in Sisseton, SD, to establish a new tribal government at the Old Agency Dakota community in Agency Village, SD.  Since then, the tribe has grown immensely in population and in services provided to tribal members, who presently have to travel long distances in order to get needed services from tribal programs at various locations throughout northeastern South Dakota.  Today, the vision of providing needed services to its members in one central location is soon to become a reality, thus fulfilling the dream of decades ago with the move to Agency Village.