With much of Mississippi located in rural areas and many of those rural areas lacking broadband access, it should be no surprise when USDA Rural Development’s Mississippi team chose to take extra initiative to make sure that Mississippi’s rural cities and counties take full advantage of the opportunities presented under the Recovery Act’s broadband funding.
And that is exactly what Mississippi’s State Director Trina N. George did when she hosted a Outreach and Training Workshop, held in Jackson on Tuesday, February 23rd for Mississippi applicants for USDA Rural Development Broadband funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
“For rural Mississippi to get its fair share of broadband funds,” said State Director George, “we feel we must submit competitive and complete applications. This workshop was to help us achieve that goal.”
Earlier today, USDA announced that the Bay Springs Telephone Co.’s Bay Springs Broadband Initiatives Project would receive a $4.3 million loan and $4.1 million grant. The funding will expand advanced DSL broadband services to unserved and underserved areas within five counties Jasper, Jones, Rankin, Scott, and Smith.
The workshop was modeled after the outstanding ARRA broadband workshops that have been held across the country hosted jointly by USDA Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Like those workshops, the Jackson event spotlighted USDA broadband funds available through the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).
The workshop was a huge hit and underscored State Director George’s concentration on outreach in promoting USDA Rural Development programs and opportunities for rural Mississippi. The workshop was also attended by staff members for a number of Mississippi’s U.S. Congressional delegation, one of whom (a staff member for a U.S. Senator) remarked as she was leaving: “This event today was just great, and so informative. It is precisely what we need to get the word out about this opportunity. It is great to see the agency doing this kind of outreach event, because it will really help a lot of Mississippians.”
“USDA Rural Development has too many good programs to just keep them to ourselves,” said State Director George. “The more we spread the word, the more rural Mississippians will benefit. And thus, our work will always begin with outreach, including such events as this one. Regarding Recovery Act opportunities, this outreach is doubly important, as that window of opportunity will close later this year.”
State Director George would also like to commend her staff, including Rural Community Programs Director Bettye Oliver, and Linda Stovall, Janis Nolan, Nicole Barnes, Patricia McDowell, and Nita Stringer on the program staff, for their professional work in putting the workshop together.
From left to right: Randy Jenkins, ARRA General Field Accountant with USDA RD in Washington, DC; USDA RD Mississippi State Director Trina N. George; and David J. Villano, USDA Assistant Administrator for Telecommunications Programs.
Over 50 potential applicants came to Jackson, MS to hear from the experts about the application process for Recovery Act broadband funds.
Written by Ken Stribling, USDA Rural Development-Mississippi