Putting a new focus on rural development, Michigan is investing in identifying areas for job creation, broadband and infrastructure expansion, rural housing, and agricultural and food-processing industries through a new executive directive establishing the Office of Rural Development within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“By creating the Office of Rural Development, we are recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities in our rural communities and implementing policies and making investments to put Michiganders first,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says. “This new office will play a crucial role in supporting MDARD’s efforts and leading new ones as we all work together to build a more prosperous rural economy.”
Budget figures for the new department include $175,000 and a full-time employee.
A new deputy for rural development will soon be appointed by and report to the MDARD director, to serve as head of the office.
The deputy will help coordinate state activities affecting rural areas, including economic and workforce development, infrastructure, public health, and environmental sustainability, Whitmer says.
According to the directive, the office will work on these areas:
Policies. Work with the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development, the department, and the governor’s office to identify existing state and federal policies that affect rural areas and create new policy goals.
Economic development. Collaborate with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and other stakeholders on rural economic development.
Housing. Collaborate with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and other stakeholders to facilitate rural affordable housing development.
Green energy. Promote sustainability, environmental preservation and green energy development in rural areas.
Trends. Evaluate, analyze and address the ramifications of population and demographic trends in rural areas of the state.
Education. Analyze and provide guidance on education-related issues and the effects on rural communities, students, schools and economies.
Energy. Evaluate energy issues facing rural areas of the state and analyze how energy issues are affecting the livability, local economies and opportunities in rural areas of the state.
Internet. Work with the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office to facilitate expansion of high-speed internet connections to people and anchor institutions in rural communities.
Development resources. Aid rural governments, businesses, individuals and economic development organizations in accessing economic and cultural development resources.
Accessing grants. Implement funding and oversight for rural development grants and assist communities and organizations in applying for rural development grants.
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