Best days lie ahead for the rural economy

Published 2:10 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2022

BY ARLISA ARMSTRONG
Growing up on a family farm in west Tennessee, I remember my parents sharing with me the struggles of advancing to the middle class. They had humble beginnings owning a small frame house before being able to build a new home on the same property. This was achieved with the help of Farmers Home Administration, now known as USDA Rural Development. It is an honor to represent our agency and its mission to build prosperity for rural America.
Last week, President Biden used his first State of the Union address to talk about where our country has been and where we are going.
The president mentioned a lot we can be proud of and even more to look forward to, especially in rural America.
The country has faced deep challenges over the past year, and the people of rural America know this better than anyone.
But rural communities are resilient, and as the success of rural America goes, so goes the rest of the country.
That’s why the progress we have made in rural Tennessee over the past year is a good sign for everyone. By investing in water infrastructure and broadband, rural business opportunities and the American food supply chain, USDA is helping communities build a foundation for sustained economic growth.
In fiscal year 2021, Lauderdale Community Hospital received a $7.5 million Business & Industry Loan to purchase hospital assets to prevent the closing of the rural hospital in west Tennessee. This purchase maintains high poverty rural area access to emergency medical care during the COVID 19 pandemic, the employment of high skilled professionals (saving 72 jobs), and the opportunity to create new job opportunities.
These investments create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas. They help grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out like the president talked about. And they contribute to a circular economy where the resources and wealth we build in rural Tennessee stay right here in Tennessee.
And they’re just the beginning. In the State of the Union, President Biden committed to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, begin to replace poisonous lead pipes — so every child — and every American — has clean water to drink at home and at school, provide affordable high-speed internet for every American — urban, suburban, rural, and tribal communities.
The Biden-Harris administration’s plan for the economy is already producing historic wins, and there’s room for everyone to participate, no matter their zip code.
That’s why we’re optimistic that our best days lie ahead.
By giving everyone a fair shot and providing equitable access to federal resources, we can do our part to carry out the president’s economic vision. That means making more things here at home, strengthening our supply chains and lowering costs for working families. It means giving people opportunities to make a good living without having to leave the communities they know and love.
For a lot of us, that means staying right here in rural Tennessee.
(Arlisa Armstong is Tennessee State Director of the USDA Rural Development)

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