White House Rural Council Blog
- Posted byon July 28, 2011 at 2:15 PM EST
Today, I was proud to announce that we are making $95 million available in Regional and Community Challenge grants to support local efforts to build more livable and sustainable communities that ensure that all Americans can afford to live in places with access to employment, schools and public transit options.
But that’s not all these efforts represent. They show that President Obama recognizes that in world where flexible workplaces win, where flexible minds win and where flexible economies win, communities need a flexible federal partner that’s responsive to local needs.
With this funding, we’re building on the $170 million in grants we awarded last fall with our partners from the Department of Transportation to offer a different kind of partnership to local communities. Rather than the “one-size-fits-all” rules and regulations that too often ignored the unique needs of every community and created barriers to growth, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is helping drive innovation at the local level and leveraging the public, private, and philanthropic investment communities need to thrive.
- Posted byon July 5, 2011 at 10:08 AM EST
Last week, I met with 20 business leaders from all over Colorado at a White House Business Council roundtable in Denver. It was an opportunity for me and my Colorado staff to get feedback on government programs, policies, and innovative ideas that are working to help create jobs – as well as ones that could be improved. Other Cabinet officials and top White House staffers have hosted more than 100 of these sorts of roundtables around the country. And over the coming weeks we will be holding these conversations in rural areas.
In Denver, I heard from business leaders who discussed the value of President Obama’s tax policies for businesses of all sizes, and appreciated the administrations work to better partner with the business community. We had a productive dialogue about how the pending trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama will benefit local agricultural producers, with the potential to create hundreds of jobs in Greeley, Colorado and other towns. And we discussed how resorts might form partnerships on recreation to make better use of forests and other natural environments to help create jobs in communities throughout the Rocky Mountains.
Everyone in the room agreed that there are incredible opportunities for growth in the economy as long as we believe in the strength and determination of the American people to work hard and innovate.
- Posted byon July 1, 2011 at 10:55 AM EST
On June 9th, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council. While rural communities face challenges, they also present economic potential. The Council will address these challenges, build on the Administration’s rural economic strategy, and improve the implementation of that strategy.
The Council, chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, was established to focus on policy initiatives for Rural Americans and will coordinate to increase the effectiveness of federal engagement with tribal governments. According to the 2010 U.S. Decennial Census, 42.6 percent of all Native Americans live in rural areas. In addition, some reservations face unemployment rates of up to 80 percent. The Council will work across federal agencies to address these challenges and promote economic prosperity and quality of life in Indian Country and across rural America. The Council will work to break down silos and find areas for better collaboration and improved flexibility in government programs and will work closely with state, local and tribal governments, non-profits, and the private sector to leverage federal support.
Plans are already underway for the Council to address ways to expand access to capital in rural communities, including an examination of the unique challenges facing Indian Country in increasing the flow of credit to Indian reservations. Economic development and job creation in Indian Country—and in all other sectors of the U.S. economy—depend on access to capital. When credit-worthy business owners can easily borrow to finance business start-up and expansion, the economy thrives. One thing we hear from tribal leaders, however, is that borrowing money for business development in Indian Country is difficult. The reasons range from difficulties in using tribal land as collateral, to the small number of lending institutions serving Indian Country, to lenders’ perceptions that lending to tribal members or tribal governments is risky.
- Posted byon June 24, 2011 at 1:20 PM EST
Editor's Note: Cross-posted from the Blog of the U.S. Department of Labor
From the coal that makes it possible for us to power our computers, to the sand and gravel that serves as the foundation of our nation’s infrastructure, we simply could not function as a country without the natural resources that our miners provide.
Mining and extraction industries have been key drivers of rural economic growth during our recovery, creating 80,000 new jobs in the last year alone. Nationally, this sector employs nearly 730,000 people in communities from Appalachia to the American West. For some raised in rural communities where mining is a way of life, this work is part of their family DNA, a profession “handed down” from one generation to the next. For others, a career in the mines is a ticket to a better life for their families. According to our Bureau of Labor Statistics, continuous mining machine operators have an average base pay of $48,000 a year, while supervisors earn more than $70,000.
As a member of President Obama’s Rural Council, I am committed to helping miners get the training they need to harness our natural resources in a safe and cost-effective way. As rising gas prices continue to place strains on middle class families, it’s critical that we support the workers responsible for producing our domestic energy supply.
This commitment starts with maintaining a well-qualified workforce. During the next decade, some 50,000 new workers will have to be trained to replace the mining industry’s aging labor force. Recognizing this challenge, my department has awarded grants to a variety of rural stakeholders to develop training programs tailored to meet the employment needs of local industry.
The projects are as unique as the rural communities that they serve: Penn State University is using special simulators to teach students how to operate sophisticated machinery when down in the mines. Northern Wyoming Community College partnered with Penn State and devised a mobile laboratory to give students on-site training at local coal mines. The Alaska Department of Labor increased mining apprenticeship opportunities and developed a web portal to help Alaskans find jobs in the mining and energy sectors. The College of Eastern Utah offers mining classes to Hispanics and Native Americans in their unique languages. West Virginia University’s Mine Training and Placement Center provides instruction on everything from ventilation techniques to infection control to accident prevention for mineral miners.
But our investment in skills training is only part of our covenant with miners in rural America. The Obama administration is committed to aggressive enforcement of mine safety laws. Our country has a duty to ensure these workers return home to their families each day in the same condition they went to work.
My department’s Mine Safety & Health Administration has rewritten our regulations to toughen worker safety standards, strengthened our enforcement efforts to identify potential hazards, partnered with mining companies to improve emergency response time and rescue capability, and cracked down on operators that cut corners on safety and put workers at risk.
It has been 14 months since the explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine claimed 29 lives. I will never forget traveling to rural West Virginia to stand vigil with the miners’ families in those tense hours when rescue operations were still ongoing. For me, the lesson of the Upper Big Branch tragedy couldn’t be clearer: hazards are to be abated, mines are to be made safe and mine operators are to be held responsible for safety problems they do not fix. We owe nothing less than this strong commitment to the mining families of rural America.
- Posted byon June 9, 2011 at 10:23 AM EST
This morning, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Rural Council, the first entity of its kind established to focus on policy initiatives for Rural Americans. The President’s signature on this document represents a truly historic moment for the nation. I am honored to serve as the Chair of the Council and work directly with my Cabinet colleagues from across the federal government to improve the economic conditions and quality of life for millions of Rural Americans.
President Obama has already established an impressive record in rural areas, which the Rural Council will build on. The Administration’s record includes substantial investments in rural America to modernize our Nation’s infrastructure, provide broadband access to 10 million Americans, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, and provide affordable health care. Nevertheless, the President believes that even more needs to be done in order to fully capitalize on the emerging opportunities in Rural America. Despite recent advances, rural communities continue to struggle to maintain the population and businesses needed for sustained economic growth.
- Posted byon April 29, 2011 at 4:58 PM EST
Your quick look at the week that was on WhiteHouse.gov.
Eggs, Actors, and Athletes: The First Family celebrated Easter by hosting the 133rd White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday. 30,000 people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia got to attend, and were welcomed by a day chock full of special events and activities. This year's theme was "Get Up and Go," in keeping with the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative.
Helping Storm Victims in the South: Violent storms struck a number of southern states this week, leaving hundreds dead and thousands more with devastated homes and communities. The President directed recovery efforts from the White House, and traveled to Alabama with the First Lady to meet with families and recovery leaders. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was in St. Louis to survey the damage done to the airport and city. FEMA posted online resources for helping recovery workers and victims.
White House Blogs
- The White House Blog
- Middle Class Task Force
- Council of Economic Advisers
- Council on Environmental Quality
- Council on Women and Girls
- Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
- Office of Management and Budget
- Office of Public Engagement
- Office of Science & Tech Policy
- Office of Urban Affairs
- Open Government
- Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships
- Social Innovation and Civic Participation
- US Trade Representative
- Office National Drug Control Policy