Earlier this month, the White House Rural Council released a new report entitled Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America, which lays out the economic landscape rural Americans face today and highlights the Administration’s key accomplishments in rural communities. The Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America report focuses on five critical areas: creating jobs and promoting economic growth, improving access to quality health care and education, fostering innovation, expanding outdoor opportunities, and supporting veterans and military families.
“This report on Jobs and Economic Security in Rural America underscores the commitment my Administration is making to rural communities,” said President Obama. “It highlights some of the many programs and policies my Administration has implemented in rural America to support economic growth. It also offers a look at the economic agenda we will continue to pursue during my Presidency.”
“This report highlights the importance of understanding some of the specific needs as well as unique opportunities found within rural America,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “It also presents vital strategies that can and will be used to seize those opportunities and tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our rural communities.”
On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council to accelerate the ongoing work of promoting economic growth in rural America. The Council is focused on increasing rural access to capital, spurring agricultural innovation, expanding digital and physical infrastructure in rural areas, and creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.
This week, the President and members of the White House Rural Council hosted the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, as part of the President’s three-day economic bus tour in the Midwest. The Forum brought together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities and small towns across the nation. During the tour, President engaged directly with a variety of rural leaders from across the nation to discuss the importance of growing small businesses and strengthening the middle class in rural America.
The report is available online. Highlights from the report include:
● The Administration has made significant investments in supporting job creation in rural America, including providing more than $6.2 billion in financing to help nearly 10,000 rural businesses expand, grow, and innovate, creating or saving over 250,000 jobs; providing more than $5 billion in farm operating and ownership loans to help over 35,000 small and medium sized operations; and expanding U.S. agricultural exports, supporting over 800,000 American jobs and generating a 35-to-1 return on investment.
● The Administration has made significant investments in improving access to quality health care and education in rural America, including providing assistance to over 400,000 rural homeowners to purchase, build, or repair their homes; financing nearly 6,000 Community Facilities, including over 2,500 public safety facilities, 1,500 public buildings, 1,000 educational facilities, and 750 health care facilities; and providing nearly 9 million rural residents access to a safe water supply and sanitary sewer system and over 3.7 million rural residents access to new or improved systems that will deliver safe, clean drinking water.
● The Administration has made significant investments in promoting innovation and investment in rural America, including expanding broadband access to over 7 million rural Americans, including more than 350,000 rural businesses; committing nearly $21 billion in loan guarantees to 32 clean energy projects that will create or save nearly 21,000 jobs; creating the TIGER Discretionary Grant Program which has invested more than $220 million in infrastructure vital to rural areas; and installing energy efficiency solutions for more than 5,000 rural small businesses, farmers, and ranchers to help save energy and improve their bottom line through the Department of Agriculture.
● The Administration has made significant investments in expanding outdoor opportunities to create sustained economic growth in rural America, including enrolling 7.1 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, which retires environmentally sensitive farm lands and has set aside 300,000 acres in the program specifically to benefit game species; partnering military with state and local governments, land trusts, and landowners to secure conservation easements through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) which protects more than 170,000 acres; removing 86,927 tons of biomass from our National Forests to produce energy; and working with farmers to restore wetlands habitat on 470,000 acres in the Gulf coastal plain following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in order to conserve migratory waterfowl.
● The Administration has made significant investments toward supporting our veterans and military families in rural America, including providing education benefits to over 215,000 veteran students in rural areas and 3,600 veteran students in highly rural areas under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill; investing in more than 500 projects across the VA health care system in support of rural health care, including 404 Community-Based Outpatient Clinics and 48 outreach clinics in rural areas, to provide primary health care access to nearly 3.3 million veterans; helping over 300,000 rural veterans and service members purchase a home or refinance an existing mortgage through the veterans’ home loan guaranty program; and challenging private companies to hire or train 100,000 veterans by 2013, and announcing commitments from numerous companies and organizations who have already stepped up to meet that goal.
The White House Rural Economic Forum is just one part of a series of more than 100 events held across the country this summer with senior Administration officials to advance the Council’s objectives. Here are just some of the past and upcoming travel and events related to the White House Rural Council:
HHS: On August 29, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will travel to Alaska, where she will visit several remote towns and villages to highlight the rural health and human services needs of tribal populations. The Secretary’s Alaska visit includes stops in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Anaktuvuk Pass, Barrow, and Tanana.
DOI: From August 6-13, Secretary Kenneth Salazar traveled to Alaska for a series of meetings, roundtables with business and Native leaders, and tours of key sites pertaining to energy, conservation, and Native Alaskan issues. In Anchorage, Secretary Salazar met with business leaders in Anchorage to discuss the need for safe and responsible development of Alaska’s energy resources. In Fairbanks, Secretary Salazar toured the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service firefighting facilities with Sens. Murkowski and Reed. In Alaska’s North Slope region, Secretary Salazar visited an Indian Health Services funded hospital currently under construction in Barrow – the northernmost community in the United States – as well as the Denali National Park, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
USTR: On August 18, Ambassador Ron Kirk will tour the processing facilities of Blue Diamond Growers, located in downtown Sacramento. There he will observe each step of almond processing from delivery to shipping. Now 101 years old, Blue Diamond is the world’s largest and most respected almond processing and marketing cooperative. Blue Diamond’s membership includes approximately 3,000 California almond producers, who grow 1.5 billion pounds of almonds, valued at $2 billion, every year. California growers produce more than 80 percent of the total world almond supply, and nearly 70 percent of the almonds processed by Blue Diamond are marketed and sold to customers in over 90 countries. Following the tour, Ambassador Kirk will participate in a roundtable discussion with California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and California agriculture industry leaders.
USDA: On August 11, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will tour the INEOS New Planet BioEnergy facility in Vero Beach, Florida. The facility is receiving a loan guarantee from USDA Rural Development to help build and operate a biorefinery capable of producing 8 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol and 6 megawatts of electricity. While at INEOS, the Secretary will announce a series of joint USDA and Department of Energy grants to spur research into improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of growing biofuel and bioenergy crops.
DOT: On August 19, Secretary Ray LaHood will visit the Illinois State Fair, where he will hold a roundtable meeting with rural farm and business leaders from central Illinois. While there, he will highlight the agency’s commitment to no new transportation regulations for farmers, and to continuing common sense agricultural exemptions to trucking and heavy equipment rules. Secretary LaHood will also discuss the importance of road, bridge, rail and port investments to growing our agricultural economy and expanding exports.
USDA: On August 19, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will hold a Rural Forum at the Iowa State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs. As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack is exploring ways to strengthen economic conditions, create jobs, promote innovation and improve access to essential community services in rural America.
VA: On September 1, Secretary Eric Shinseki will host a rural roundtable in Des Moines. The event will include a roundtable discussion to listen to local concerns and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America. VA has placed 12 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans.
USDA: On July 21, Secretary Vilsack and Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance held a rural roundtable during Maryland Ag Day in Annapolis. The Secretary met with Maryland businesses leaders, farmers and ranchers to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs in Annapolis, Maryland.
VA: On August 31, Secretary Shinseki will go to St. Paul to attend the State Fair. The event will include a roundtable discussion to listen to local concerns and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America. VA has placed 10 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans.
USDA: On July 27, Secretary Vilsack gave the keynote at the Council on Foundations 2011 Rural Philanthropy Conference in Kansas City. The Secretary called on representatives of philanthropic organizations from across America to “step up, take risks and work creatively to create jobs, improve quality of life and make an impact on rural America.” During his keynote address, the Secretary urged philanthropists to partner with the Obama Administration, through the White House Rural Council to drive smart investment strategies in rural America.
HHS: On August 1, Secretary Sebelius visited the Learning Junction Childcare Center in Joplin, where she toured the St. John’s Mobile Medical Unit, met with Joplin officials, and hosted a discussion on mental health, child trauma, and school planning. Later in the day, the Secretary visited a Critical Access Hospital in Aurora, MO, where she met with hospital leadership and took part in a roundtable discussion on rural health issues.
DOI: On July 15, Secretary Salazar hosted a rural water infrastructure event on Crow Reservation in Montana to celebrate the recently approved Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement, which will ensure safe drinking water for the reservation as well as provide for the rehabilitation of the Crow Irrigation Project. The Secretary also delivered keynote remarks at the Land Consolidation Consultation in Billings, where he discussed the importance of creating economic opportunities in rural communities through conservation and outdoor recreation. On July 16, Secretary Salazar hosted rural lands conservation and outdoor recreation events in Ovando and the Blackfoot River Valley to highlight community-based partnerships. Secretary Salazar also hosted a youth focused outdoor recreation and jobs event in Kalispell that focused on the economic impact of Glacier Park to northwest Montana.
VA: On July 7-8, Secretary Shinseki held three rural events in Montana. The events were held in Helena at the Montana National Guard Armory, in Bozeman at Montana State University, and in Billings at the Billings VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic. Each event included a roundtable discussion where the Secretary listened to local veterans and highlighted the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America. Secretary Shinseki has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority, and the department continues to develop new ways to reach veterans in rural parts of America. VA has placed several community-based outpatient clinics and established tele-health services throughout Montana.
VA: On August 19, Secretary Shinseki will join Sen. Ben Nelson to host a rural roundtable near Lincoln. VA has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority, and the department continues to develop new ways to reach veterans in rural parts of America. VA has placed 11 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans. Plans are underway for a new $560 million Omaha VAMC to replace the 60-year-old hospital. The facility provides a full range of patient care services, education, and research for veterans in a 104-county area of Nebraska, western Iowa, and portions of Kansas and Missouri.
VA: On August 17, Secretary Shinseki will host a rural roundtable near Las Vegas. VA has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority and the department continues to develop new ways to reach Veterans in rural parts of America. VA has placed 10 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans. VA is expanding services in the Las Vegas Area with a new comprehensive VA medical center complex nearing completion in North Las Vegas that will have a $1.2 billion economic impact to the area and create 1,850 permanent medical jobs.
HUD: On August 22, Secretary Shaun Donovan will visit a hospital under construction in Rio Rancho. A $143.4 million Section 242 mortgage insurance commitment was issued to finance the construction of the hospital in Rio Rancho, a suburb 20 miles northwest of Albuquerque. The new facility is affiliated with the University of New Mexico (UNM), UNM Hospital, the UNM Medical Group, and the UNM School of Medicine. The loan will finance a new 200,000-square foot, 68-bed state-of-the-art community teaching hospital with a high surgical case load on 20 acres of land. At an interest rate of 6.0 percent, in comparison to an unenhanced bond interest rate of 7.7 percent, FHA insurance will save the hospital $64.7 million in interest expense over the life of the loan. The construction project will support 1,877 FTEs in its community and provide an economic stimulus of $386.4 million during the construction period. Following construction, the completed project will directly support 445 FTEs and provide a direct annual economic benefit of $85.8 million.
DOE: On July 25, Secretary Steven Chu visited Celgard, an innovative and high-tech battery manufacturing company, in Concord. Celgard recently expanded their existing manufacturing facility with support from the Recovery Act to create more than 200 jobs in rural North Carolina. Celgard is one of the largest suppliers to the lithium battery industry, which are instrumental in increasing the capacity of electric drive vehicles and helping reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Afterwards, the Secretary was joined by local business leaders at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte for a roundtable discussion on the growing clean energy industry in rural communities. Like Celgard, the companies that Secretary met with are critical to our future: to pioneering and commercializing technologies that reduce our consumption of foreign oil and creating jobs and supporting economic growth.
VA: On July 5, Secretary Shinseki held a rural event in Bismarck at the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic where he held a roundtable discussion to listen to local veterans and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America.
CEQ: On August 9, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley toured a Federal-County-State funded partnership with local business and conservation groups that is creating local jobs and building a renewable energy market in John day, Oregon. Byproducts from the U.S. Forest Service’s Malheur National Forest restoration project are used by Malheur Lumber Company and Pellet Plant to create wood pellets which are in turn used to provide energy to local schools, the local hospital and John Day Airport. Malheur Lumber Company’s recent expansion, financed in part by a Recovery Act grant, has allowed Grant County, Oregon to retain 6 percent of its private non-farm workforce. The wood pellets and bricks manufactured at Malheur Lumber will reduce energy costs by $4.4 million across the regional economy and represent the economic opportunities presented through conservation and collaboration between governments and local communities and businesses.
EPA: On August 3, Administrator Lisa Jackson traveled to Lancaster County and visited Jeff Balmer, owner of a 60-head dairy farm that is using a variety of best management practices to protect water quality in the community and further downstream in the Chesapeake Bay. The Administrator toured Jeff's farm and he explained how these practices allowed him to prevent runoff and retain soil, making his operation more efficient and sustainable. The Administrator also participated in a roundtable discussion with around 50 area farmers and leaders about ways to protect rural air and water quality and strengthen rural economies. The Administrator pledged to continue communicating directly with farmers and other stakeholders in rural communities about the shared goals of clean air, clean water and increased economic opportunities rural America.
ED: On August 10, Secretary Arne Duncan traveled to Nashville to host a WH Rural Council roundtable discussion with several rural superintendents, school principals and business leaders, as well as Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, at Vanderbilt University. The conversation focused on challenges and solutions in rural schools and how the federal government could best support districts, communities and local partners to strengthen schools and increase student success. Duncan highlighted the ways education can transform rural economies and the opportunities that technology offers all students to receive a world-class education no matter where they live.
USTR: This fall, Ambassador Kirk will visit the Texas State Fair, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary from September 30 to October 23. Held annually at Fair Park in Dallas, the fair proudly displays the unique scale and diversity of Texas’ people and products. Millions of visitors from all 50 states and many countries around the world flock to Dallas each October to sample the best the Lone Star State has to offer in terms of food, fun, and entertainment. Featured attractions include the largest new car and truck show in the Southwest, legendary livestock exhibitions, major music concerts, and classic college football.
OSTP: On August 5, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra visited Blacksburg to discuss rural job creation and to hear from local entrepreneurs and business leaders about ways we can partner to spur job growth in rural communities across the country. Chopra toured two local startups, made remarks at an event hosted by the Regional Technology Council, and hosted a roundtable discussion with local entrepreneurs, business leaders, and other key stakeholders.
SBA: On July 14, Administrator Karen Mills visited a high tech business that was named West Virginia’s small business of the year in 2010. The business, Azimuth, Inc. located in Fairmount, was started by a service disabled veteran with an SBA loan and grew through SBA’s 8(a) Federal Contracting Program. Azimuth is an impressive manufacturing company, creating rural jobs of the future focused on protecting our borders. It is a high technology services firm that is dedicated to quality, innovation, and performance and is a strong advocate of teaming, actively seeking to establish long term strategic alliances with both large and small firms.
USDA: On August 4, Secretary Vilsack held a forum at the Wisconsin State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers and ranchers to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs. The Secretary took questions from the audience and highlighted job creation and how agricultural trade is contributing to Wisconsin’s economy.
DOI: On July 14, Secretary Salazar keynoted the National Wildlife System Conference, where he addressed the Obama Administration’s commitment to working with ranchers, farmers and other private landowners to ensure protection of large, rural landscapes and the abundance of fish and wildlife – and announced a new initiative that will spur these collaborative efforts through community-based coalitions of private landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies. The Landscape Stewards program, a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will leverage up to $200,000 to support coalition-based conservation efforts beginning next year, with each grant matched by equal contributions from the coalition partners – part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.
DOI: From August 15-19, Secretary Salazar will travel to the Northeastern United States to highlight the importance of America’s outdoor economy in creating jobs and discuss the economic value of conservation for communities across the country, placing an emphasis on rural areas where protecting vital habitats contributes greatly to strong local economies. The four-state tour will take Secretary Salazar and key partners in the Senate to Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire to meet with outdoor stakeholders; tour the parks, refuges, and public lands that serve as recreation destinations for tourists and travelers from around the country – helping to create jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry; participate in events that encourage youth to get outside and explore the great outdoors; and visit the retail shops and outfitters that help power this key section of our economy. The Secretary’s trip will focus on discussions with leaders in Northeastern rural communities about creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.