White House Rural Council Blog

  • Supporting Military Readiness and Training through Environmental Conservation

    Last week, the Obama Administration announced a new federal, local, and private sector collaboration that will preserve agricultural lands and restore and protect wildlife habitat, all while helping to sustain military readiness. 

    Known as the “Sentinel Landscapes” partnership, the effort is kicking off with a pilot at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, an important training facility for our troops in the South Puget Sound region of Washington State, and home to some of the last remaining native prairie habitat for wildlife in the state. 

    This unique convergence of landscapes comes with unique challenges. Namely, as development comes closer and closer to the base, at-risk species in the area take refuge in the only land that can’t be developed, the military base itself. The presence of these species can then bring restrictions to the base’s ability to engage in certain training activities.

    In a unique collaboration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the Department of Defense will work together and with private landowners and state and local partners, including the non-profit Center for Natural Lands Management, to preserve and restore habitat around the base to ensure at-risk species can survive, while also improving military readiness by ensuring training activities can proceed unimpeded.

  • Building Community Leaders for Regional Success

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Delta Regional Authority.

    Strong leaders are integral to the success of Rural America, binding together neighbors, sustaining the deeply rooted culture, and searching for ways to keep the community moving forward. To ensure a future generation of Delta leaders, the Delta Regional Authority, a member of the White House Rural Council, began the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

    Founded in 2005, the first Executive Academy class convened 22 people from the eight states of the Delta region to learn about the most pressing economic and social issues facing Rural America and collaborate to find common solutions to address these problems. Through leadership development sessions, communication trainings, case studies of successful models of change, and exposure to fellow community members and other parts of the region, the Executive Academy has created a corps of community leaders who have a vision for the Delta as a regional unit. The Academy is a network that shares successes, opportunities, and failures across state lines, and a group of leaders who have the tools to bring economic advancement and social change to their rural communities.

    Over six sessions taking place in five cities around the region and in Washington, DC, participants discuss challenges in access to affordable health care and education, recruitment of business investment, retention of human capital, maintenance of necessary public infrastructure, and cultivation of entrepreneurial environments. Most importantly, though, these sessions provide participants with the opportunity to collaborate on crafting solutions for our region.

  • Grand Opening of Dillon’s New Middle School

    On Thursday, September 6, 2012, I had the honor of celebrating the beginning of a new era in Dillon County, South Carolina as Dillon opened its newest middle school.

    Three and a half years ago, Dillon’s school system was spotlighted when Ty’Sheoma Bethea wrote a letter to President Obama. Ty’Sheoma’s letter inspired the President and his Administration to help rebuild her school, and her letter reminded all Americans of what we can accomplish by working collectively toward common goals.

    In 2010, this Administration awarded a $35.8 million loan and a $4 million grant to the Dillon County School Facilities Corporation to finance new construction and renovations for four schools in three districts in South Carolina. These United States Department of Agriculture funds were made possible by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which has assisted communities like Dillon across America prepare for and invest in the future.

    Dillon Middle School Ribbon Cutting

    Dillon Middle School Ribbon Cutting (Photo from USDA)

    The new middle school replaces J.V. Martin Junior High School and is Dillon’s first new school in about 40 years. Ms. Bethea’s letter spoke to the President’s belief that a strong country only exists when we equip our children with a quality education, so they are prepared to win the future.

  • Making Federal Resources More Accessible for Rural Communities

    Federal agencies often get requests from local governments and organizations—especially those in rural America—to make information about available grants and resources easier to access and understand. The HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communitiesand USDA have just released a publication that does that. Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities is a guide to programs from the four agencies that rural communities can use to promote economic competitiveness, protect healthy environments, and enhance quality of life. It provides key information on funding and technical assistance opportunities as well as examples of how rural communities across the country have put these programs into action to achieve their goals. With this menu of options, local leaders can more easily identify federal resources that support community planning, cost-effective infrastructure, economic development, brownfields revitalization, and other activities that are part of achieving sustainable communities. They can also see program eligibility and matching requirements at a glance.

     The White House Rural Council has heard from many stakeholders that keeping track of federal funding availability, researching program requirements, and completing applications can be a heavy burden for communities, particularly small rural communities with limited staff capacity.

  • White House Rural Council’s Health IT Initiative Helps Community Colleges Tailor Programs to Workforce Needs

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education Blog

    With a major workforce transition underway in many rural hospitals and health clinics, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted a conference call with staff from nearly 80 rural community colleges recently to discuss federal resources available to expand training for health information technology workers.

    Developing an adequately trained health IT workforce in rural areas is imperative, and new programs are available to provide incentives for eligible health care providers and hospitals to adopt and meaningfully use electronic health records.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the health IT workforce will increase by 20 percent by the year 2016.  A significant part of that growth will come in rural areas, which are served by approximately 2,000 rural hospitals, 3,700 Rural Health Clinics and approximately 3,000 Community and Migrant Health Centers that are either located in or serve rural communities.

  • One Year Later: What We’re Doing on the White House Rural Council

    As someone who was born and raised on a ranch in Colorado, I know firsthand that rural communities are home to some of the most hard-working and self-reliant Americans.  I also know that the struggles facing these families are not unlike those confronting Americans across the country: we want our children to receive a world-class education; we want access to quality and affordable health care; we want job opportunities and vibrant local economies; and we want to leave a stronger America for our children and grandchildren to inherit.