Rural Development State Director Tom Fern is in Fleming County today to meet with Joni Hazelrigg, CEO of Fleming Mason Electric Cooperative, and highlight the progress of a utility improvement project that is nearing completion.
“America’s infrastructure must be modernized if we are to continue to create jobs, expand opportunity and be competitive in the global economy,” Fern said. “USDA understands how important projects like this are to the economic development of small, rural Kentucky communities.”
USDA awarded a $12.38 million rural electric loan guarantee to Fleming Mason Energy Cooperative to build or improve more than 52 miles of line and offer improved service to new and existing customers. Hazelrigg said the project is 75 percent complete and will be finished in the next three months.
“In the not so distant past, rural communities didn’t have access to electricity but rural electric cooperatives like Fleming Mason have done a marvelous job providing services to residential and commercial customers in rural areas,” said Fern. “The CEO, board of directors and employees of Fleming-Mason are to be applauded for taking the initiative to provide improved services to customers in Fleming and surrounding counties, while also planning for future needs and enhancing opportunities for economic development.”
The project also includes smart grid improvements such as advanced metering infrastructure. Smart grid refers to the application of technologies designed to modernize our nation’s electric system. These technologies increase the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage the electric grid, such as during peak demand, to improve operational efficiencies.
A modern, reliable electric system is critical to attract and retain residents and businesses to rural communities. USDA has a long history, dating back to the New Deal era, of working with rural utilities to help bring needed infrastructure and service improvements. Through the years, these investments have brought new economic and social opportunities and have enhanced the quality of life in the nation’s rural communities.
Fleming County is part of the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, which addresses the unique set of challenges faced by many of America’s rural communities. Through StrikeForce, USDA is leveraging resources and collaborating with over 400 community organizations, businesses, foundations, universities and other groups to support 80,300 projects with more than $9.7 billion in USDA investments into rural America. StrikeForce currently serves Kentucky and 19 other states.
The President’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.