MORGANTOWN, WV, Feb. 15, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development West Virginia State Director Ryan Thorn today announced that USDA is investing $902,161 to assist small businesses and improve access to health care and infrastructure for people in historically underserved communities across the Rural Partners Network (RPN) in West Virginia.
“At USDA we’re committed to ensuring that our rural communities have the opportunity and resources they need to grow and prosper,” said Thorn. “This funding will help small businesses cut utility costs and find new markets for their products and it will help rural communities continue to provide critical access to health care and public safety services.
In West Virginia, the funding will support nine projects in the following RPN counties:
Pioneer Community Network
- Solar Energy Solutions, a West Virginia Solar Developer, will use a $122,374 Rural Energy for America Program grant and loan to purchase and install a 300-kW solar array on the roof of Mountaineer Food Bank. This project will realize $30,664 per year in savings and will replace 365,052 kWh (77 percent) per year, which is enough electricity to power 30 homes.
- Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center will use $460,000 in Community Facilities Grants to replace failing water and septic systems with new water and sewer lines.
- The Calhoun County Commission will use a $26,400 Community Facilities Grant to purchase an all-wheel drive law enforcement vehicle with all the necessary equipment for the Calhoun County Sheriff's Department.
- Donna Richards will use a $11,040 Rural Energy for America Program grant to purchase and install a 16-kW solar array at her crop and horse farm. This project will realize $1,646 per year in savings and will replace 16,502 kWh (100 percent) per year, which is enough electricity to power one home.
Southern WV Community Network
- Appalachian Botanical Company will use a $224,975 Value-Added Producer Grant to support digital marketing and outside sales and to purchase production supplies to create lavender value-added products.
- The City of Smithers will use a $34,500 Community Facilities Grant to purchase a 4x4 law enforcement vehicle with all the necessary equipment for the Smithers Police Department.
- Mark Soukup will use a $7,399 Rural Energy for America Program grant to purchase and install an 11-kW solar array. Mark Soukup owns and operates a small furniture-making business. This project will realize $1,179 per year in savings and will replace 11,824 kWh (100 percent) per year for a small manufacturing facility, which is enough electricity to power the majority of one home.
- Laishley Family Trust will use a $15,473 Rural Energy for America Program grant to purchase and install a 16-kW solar array for its small business that focuses on herb and water products. This project will realize $2,058 per year in savings and will replace 17,582 kWh (100 percent) per year for a greenhouse and toolshed, which is enough electricity to power one home.
In addition to West Virginia, USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small also announced funding for projects in Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Puerto Rico.
“The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA are committed to ensuring that the rich tapestry of people living in rural areas have every opportunity to succeed – and that they can find those opportunities right at home in rural America,” Torres Small said. “From renewable energy and new jobs to clean water and quality health care, the Rural Partners Network is connecting rural people to resources that will help them create new and lasting prosperity on their own terms.”
The funding will create jobs for rural people and help them expand their businesses. It will provide affordable, well-built homes for seniors and low-income families in rural areas. It will help farmers and ranchers bolster their bottom line and find new and better markets for their products. And it will give people in remote areas access to modern water and wastewater systems, and quality education and health care services.
The Biden-Harris Administration established RPN to transform the way federal agencies partner with and serve rural people and places, including Native American communities. In West Virginia, RPN includes 20 underserved counties in central and southern West Virginia. Led by USDA with support from more than 20 federal agencies and commissions, RPN is central to President Biden’s commitment to ensure all rural people can benefit from federal resources. This includes historic funding from the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Background: Rural Partners Network
Launched in April 2022 and expanded in November 2022, the Rural Partners Network is now active in 36 community networks in 10 states and Puerto Rico.
The following community networks are established in West Virginia:
Southern West Virginia Community Network hosted by the West Virginia Community Development Hub including Mingo, Wayne, Lincoln, Boone, Logan, Wyoming, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Raleigh, Summers, Fayette counties.
West Virginia Pioneer Community Network hosted by Glenville State University including Braxton, Calhoun, Clay, Gilmer, Nicholas, Roane, Webster, and Wirt counties.
Community networks receive on-the-ground support from full-time federal staff who live and work locally. These staff members provide technical assistance based on each community’s needs, helping them navigate federal programs, build relationships and prepare successful applications for funding. A team of Rural Desk Officers representing each participating federal agency or regional commission supports the RPN program and community networks.
For more information on RPN, visit Rural.gov.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/wv.
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