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USDA Partners with Auburn University and the University of Tennessee to Create Livable Communities That Will Attract People and Jobs Across Rural Alabama

Calvin Burroughs
Montgomery, Ala.
Release Date
Nov 08, 2021

Montgomery, Ala., Nov. 8, 2021 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small and USDA Rural Development Alabama State Director Nivory Gordon, Jr. today announced that USDA is awarding $496,781 to Auburn University and the University of Tennessee to support rural communities across Alabama. These organizations will provide technical assistance to people living in Alabama’s rural and Tribal communities so they can apply for and access government resources for projects that will attract jobs and people, rebuild the economy and pave the way for rural America to build back better.  

“Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, USDA is investing in ways to help people in our nation’s smallest towns and communities access the government funding they need to create more jobs, deploy critical infrastructure, repair their homes or build more and better homes for the community, and so much more,” Torres Small said. “As we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on people living in rural places, the Department is targeting resources and leveraging partnerships to enhance the quality of life in rural towns and Tribal areas who need it most. Community and economic development strategies like placemaking are critical to helping the people of rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before.”

“Partnerships and investments like these announced today will help Alabama’s rural communities access resources to help with needed infrastructure and other community services,” said Gordon. “These investments will help benefit these communities, and to help increase the quality of life in rural Alabama.”

The Department is making the awards under the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC). Placemaking is a collaborative planning and technical assistance process that helps leaders from rural communities create quality places where people will want to live, work, visit and learn.  

USDA is awarding cooperative agreements to benefit Alabama:   

Across west and central Alabama, USDA is investing $247,960 to help Auburn University to develop a Placemaking Action Accelerator Plan for several rural Alabama communities. The University will focus on key priorities, including housing, economic development, expanded broadband access, preservation and enhancement of active greenspaces, historic sites and structures, community amenities, and community-led health and wellness initiatives. The placemaking project will support public input sessions and capacity assessments. It will help develop placemaking action plans for the towns of Newbern, Greensboro, Moundville, Uniontown, and Hale County. Funds also will help the University implement technical assistance, create a process map that other counties in the region can use, and outline plans to host an annual placemaking summit with county stakeholders.

In north Alabama, USDA is investing $248,821 to help the University of Tennessee support the Tennessee RiverLine Community Planning Initiative. The initiative supports investments to help benefit rural communities along the 652-mile reach of the Tennessee River. The funds will expand the Tennessee RiverLine’s capacity to offer planning and programming efforts in nine rural communities without access to local capacity. The community planning initiative and the placemaking project proposals will advance the vision of Tennessee RiverLine and help drive economic development, public health, environmental stewardship and equitable access across these rural communities. The assistance will benefit the cities of Bridgeport and Guntersville and the Shoals area in Alabama. This assistance will also benefit the city of Clifton, and Roane, Hardin and Stewart counties in Tennessee; and the city of Calvert, and Paducah and McCracken counties in Kentucky.

In other areas of the country, USDA is also awarding cooperative agreements to: Greater Applegate Community Development Corporation, County of Hawaii, Enterprise Center Partners, Kentucky Highlands Center for Development, Multicultural Initiative for Community Advancement (MICA) Group Inc., Bowling Green State University, Foundation for Puerto Rico, Center for Habitat Reconstruction Inc., Communities Unlimited, Conservation Fund and Housing Assistance Council.

The organizations will work directly with people in rural communities to develop plans that will ensure people have access to high-speed internet in their homes, are able to live in affordable houses, have access to safe and reliable transportation to go to school and work, and more.  This assistance will support the communities for up to two years.

Outside of Alabama, the investments will help people in rural and Tribal communities in California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Puerto Rico.

For example:

  • MICA Group Inc. is receiving $248,676 to develop a community broadband placemaking action plan to help enhance the quality of life for people in the Lower Sioux Indian Community in Minnesota and the Pawnee Nation and Cheyenne Arapaho Tribe in Oklahoma. MICA will develop the plan in conjunction with planning sessions and workshops with leaders in Tribal governments, education, health, the arts, cultural and historical preservation, natural resources, business, and representative end-users.
  • Kentucky Highlands Center for Development will use $250,000 to help expand capacity for broadband access to enhance the quality of life for people who live in public housing. The assistance will benefit people in Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry and Whitley counties in Kentucky.
  • Bowling Green State University will use $248,938 to facilitate public engagement and partnership development to help rural communities build their capacity to implement placemaking projects. The University will help communities implement projects that create a unique sense of place that enhances the quality of life for rural residents and attracts and retains workforce talent. Funds also will be used to help develop a comprehensive placemaking strategy for each community that identifies ways to expand or reimagine existing community assets or amenities. The assistance will benefit people in Logan, Ashland, Union, VanWert, Williams, Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Wyandot, Richland and Crawford, Ohio.

USDA will announce in the coming months additional communities that will receive placemaking assistance. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/rpic.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, 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. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.


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