White House Rural Council Blog

  • Treasury Announces Awards to Benefit Low-Income and Distressed Native Communities

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from Treasury Notes, the Department of the Treasury blog.

    Building upon last month’s announcement of $142 million in awards for distressed communities – the single largest round of awards in the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund’s history – yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting with a national gathering of Native CDFIs in Honolulu, HI where I announced an additional $11.85 million in awards expressly for financial institutions serving Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.

    That money, made under the fiscal year 2011 round of Treasury’s Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program), will go to 35 organizations with a primary mission of serving low-income and distressed Native communities in 17 states (pdf), the majority of them in rural areas.  Of the 35, seven organizations serving Native Hawaiian communities will receive awards that will allow them to increase lending services, start new microloan programs and increase their capacity to serve their target markets.

  • Rural Tour Day Two: Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa

    Peosta, Iowa

    After a full day spent talking and listening to Americans at town halls in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and Decorah, Iowa yesterday, this morning the President's economic bus tour pulls into Peosta, Iowa for the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College. President Obama and members of his Cabinet will meet with private sector leaders, farmers and small business owners to discuss ideas to grow the economy, accelerate hiring and spur innovation in small towns across the country.

    The focus of the forum is how we can create good jobs that put more Americans back to work, and President Obama will announce new job initiatives for rural America that will do just that. The initiatives will include recommendations from the White House Rural Council that include helping small businesses in rural areas access capital, expanding rural job search and training services and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.

    Watch President Obama's opening remarks at 12:50 p.m. EDT and closing remarks at 3:30 p.m. EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live to learn more about the President's plan to create jobs in small cities and towns across America.

  • Rural Veterans and the Tyranny of Distance

    At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Shinseki often talks about the tyranny of distance – the distance that often separates Veterans from care at their nearest VA medical facilities. For about 3.3 million Vets, or 41 percent of the total enrolled in VA’s health care system, distance is more than a challenge. Distance can mean rural Veterans don’t have access to the care and services they’ve earned. 

    Secretary Shinseki made it clear – this summer, he wanted to hear from Veterans in the hardest to reach places. “I know from previous experience that sitting in Washington with a 2,000-mile screwdriver trying to fine tune things at the local level never works,” he said. So, we hit the road to learn firsthand.

    Link to photo gallery, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki Listening and Talking Tour.

    From the plains of North Dakota and Montana to the isolated island of Guam, Veterans from rural areas talked with Secretary Shinseki about what’s working and what the department can do better. To many Veterans, it was clear VA has shifted its approach to be more accessible. But we also quickly learned that standard definitions like “urban, rural, and highly rural” may not be exact enough.  Often, “remote, extreme rural, and inaccessible” is more accurate. 

    The “inaccessible” category would definitely include Kwigillingok, Alaska, or Kwig, located in the far reaches of Central Yup’ik near the Bering Sea.  On Memorial Day, Secretary Shinseki visited Kwig to meet and honor living members of the Alaska Territorial Guard, who served bravely during World War II.  No roads lead to Kwig, so the trip wasn’t easy.  We hopped on a flight in Anchorage, and connected in the small town of Bethel – about 1,000 miles roundtrip. When we finally landed on the dirt landing strip in Kwig, villagers on all-terrain vehicles appeared from all over to give us rides to the village center. 

  • White House Roundtable Meeting with Rural Leaders

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the USDA blog.

    This week, I led a meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House with leaders of a host of rural organizations to discuss the White House Rural Council. The White House Rural Council, which was established by President Obama on June 9, 2011, will build on this Administration’s unprecedented efforts to spur job creation and economic growth in rural America. Along with Jon Carson, the Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council, we discussed the Council’s efforts to improve coordination among federal agencies. We focused in on ways to help better leverage existing federal resources in rural America – and on how to facilitate private-public partnerships that can move the needle in building stronger rural communities.

    The meeting was a chance for me to listen to our rural partners on the issues that need to be addressed and discuss potential solutions. Some of the key issues raised included the need to coordinate more with our federal partners on health care, broadband, and other critical infrastructure; how to increase the availability of capital and lending to rural businesses and families; efforts to remove barriers to young and beginning farmers; and strategies for establishing better partnerships with states, tribes, local governments and the private sector. Many of the leaders gathered also expressed appreciation for the renewed focus on rural America and the importance the White House has placed on these issues.

  • Winning the Future by Supporting Local Innovation

    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.

  • Mile High City with Mountains of Ideas

    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.

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at a White House Business Council Roundtable

    Secretary Vilsack addresses participants at a White House Rural Business Council meeting held in Denver, CO. Attendees represented the renewable energy, telecommunications, tourism, and agricultural industries on June 28, 2011. (Photo by Amy Mund, USDA Rural Development)

    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.