United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Minnesota Brad Finstad today announced that USDA invested in 13 projects to provide essential services for more than 363,000 people in rural areas throughout Minnesota in Fiscal Year 2017.
“Rural infrastructure development is essential to the continued growth of rural America,” said Finstad. “From libraries and schools, to public safety centers and emergency service vehicles, these investments will help ensure that rural communities throughout Minnesota continue to propser, one community facility at a time.”
USDA infused over $3.6 million into rural areas throughout Minnesota in 2017 through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program for projects such as schools, libraries, municipal centers, first responder vehicles and equipment, social service buildings, recreational activities and other community needs.
Below are some examples of projects in Minnesota that USDA helped finance in 2017:
- The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians received a $1.5 million loan to build a new community center that serve nearly 5,700 Tribal members in the surrounding area. Originally built in the 1960’s, the current facility is in a state of disrepair, including propane and electric heat that only heat certain sections of the building, inadequate plumbing, a leaky roof that has caused mold to form throughout the entire facility, and an outdated kitchen that is too small to provide food for large gatherings. The new facility will represent the culture of the Red Lake Band by using cedar poles taken from the Red Lake Forests, and will include a commercial grade kitchen, a large gathering space able to hold up to 700 people, and a multi-purpose recreational room. The facility will be used for teaching the Ojibwe language and traditional drum and dance, serving food to those in need, hosting movie nights for youth, wakes/funerals, family gatherings, health cooking classes, diabetes prevention classes, performing arts, and community listening sessions.
- In Bemidji, Minn., the Headwaters Science Center received a $47,000 loan and a $50,000 grant to replace their current heating and cooling system that was installed more than 20 years ago. The current system is recirculating air from the basement rather than circulating fresh air in from outside, causing difficulty in temperature regulation and potential health risks for staff and students. The new system will use pre-conditioned outside air that will allow the Center to better regulate the temperature and make the environment more comfortable and safe for users.
- The city of Mountain Lake, Minn., received a $125,000 loan to help finance the purchase of a new fire truck. The local Fire Department serves the local community and surrounding six townships – a population totaling more than 2,100. The current vehicle is 33 years old and nearing the end of its useful life with increasing need for costly mechanical repairs. The new 2017 pumper truck will hold a 1,000 gallon water tank that will pump 1,500 gallons per minute, allowing the Fire Department to continue its emergency services for years to come.
- A $148,000 loan and $50,000 grant was provided to the city of Littlefork, Minn., to finance the purchase of a new ambulance. Residents of Koochiching County, only 30 miles from the border of Canada, are transported anywhere from 40 to 300 miles round trip for treatment at the hospital located in Duluth, Minn. Additionally, the ambulance service provides transportation for residents of the Littlefork nursing home and assisted living facilities. The current vehicle is nearly 12 years old and in need of many repairs due to high milage. The new vehicle will ensure that local residents continue to receive quality emergency services with access to state-of-the-art technology. The older vehicle will be retained for back-up use.
Finstad’s announcement is made in coordination with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s announcement that USDA invested in nearly 400 projects nationwide, including Minnesota, to provide essential services for more than 7 million people across the country in Fiscal Year 2017.
In Fiscal Year 2017, USDA supported projects in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
- The city of Ludington, Mich., received a $1.6 million loan to replace its 50-year-old fire station, which was once a storage facility that was transformed into a fire station in the 1970s. The current space is inadequate and does not meet accessibility standards for people with disabilities. The new, larger station will include a training room, administrative offices, and locker and storage rooms for equipment and supplies. Most importantly, the updated facility will meet all current building codes. The project will benefit more than 8,000 residents.
- NCCD - West Hills Properties LLC in Austin, Texas, received a $33 million loan to build a 464-bed, 170,400-square-foot dormitory on the campus of Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. The building will be used primarily for full-time engineering and agriculture students to help meet the growing demand for on-campus housing.
- Community Action Realty in Williamsport, Pa., received a $775,000 loan to acquire a building for Head Start classrooms for residents of Lycoming and Clinton counties. The larger space will allow for continuous oversight and coaching, increase safety for the children, and improve service delivery. Many of the services are offered by the Lycoming-Clinton Counties Commission for Community Action STEP, Inc.
- The Willow Oak Montessori Foundation Inc., in Pittsboro, N.C., received a $5.6 million loan to construct three, 11,000-square-foot buildings for students at the Willow Oak Montessori Charter School. The school will add an 8th grade and kindergarten for the 2018-2019 school year when the project is completed. It currently serves children in grades 1 through 7.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump, which included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.