As President Obama challenges Americans to win the future, we at USDA are implementing ways to do so by helping tribal communities across the country out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our global competition. Starting in rural America, but more specifically within tribal communities, we see an amazing opportunity to improve the economic climate and provide a better tomorrow for today’s youth.
At the 2011 Reservation Economic Summit, I was able to showcase the programs we are employing through USDA’s Rural Development to better the lives of those living in rural America, and to support tribal economic development. As the summit rang in its 25th anniversary, the conversation was abuzz with ideas on how to spur economic development in Indian Country – and investing in our Nation’s rural infrastructure is a great place to start.
Through USDA, there are more than 40 housing, facility, and business and community infrastructure programs, all of which are designed to improve the economic strength of rural America, and support those that choose to live and work there: businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers.
During the Reservation Economic Summit, I outlined the different plans Rural Development has to make our tribal communities fighting players in our economy, both regionally and globally. Our Broadband Initiatives Program was created to give Indian country the tools it needs to vie with our global competitors. We must find ways to ensure that our rural communities are on a level playing field with the rest of the world, and that means ensuring that tribal businesses have access to fast and reliable internet.
Another way USDA is looking to help tribal communities is by growing existing businesses, as well as creating new ones through the Business and Cooperative Programs. Many Native American communities have used the Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program, which promotes sustainable economic development in rural communities with exceptional need, and is specifically designed to offer its benefits to native applicants.
These are just a few examples, but when we implement our rural development programs throughout Indian Country, we can connect tribes to resources that open the door to increased economic growth. And as we do that, it takes the entire nation one step closer to maximizing our future and out-doing our global competition. As our economy continues to recover, we must build on the successes of the last two years and continue to find more achievement in tribal communities. Expanding and growing upon rural America is not only a priority for myself, Secretary Vilsack, and the Department of Agriculture, but also for President Obama and the entire administration. Together, we can win the future.