Rural Development (RD) programs are making a positive difference in rural Florida. And, I have proof! I recently returned from a two-day tour of USDA projects with Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager and Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein where we witnessed firsthand how RD’s investment in rural Florida is paying off by providing economic and educational opportunities in Polk County where unemployment has reached almost 13 percent.
Our tour began at Bok Academy, a 540-student charter school located in Lake Wales. Undersecretary Tonsager and I were impressed with the enthusiasm the students and faculty demonstrated as they led the tour of their new school and talked about their learning experiences. This conversion middle school not only offers unique learning opportunities for Polk County students, it also provides the community with much needed jobs. Thanks to a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan, an estimated 447 jobs were saved or created producing an economic ripple effect that continues to benefit Lake Wales and its surrounding communities. This funding is just one example of RD’s investment in rural America and its commitment to help raise graduation rates and “out-educate” our global competitors.
The next day, Administrator Adelstein and I travelled to the Town of Dundee where we toured a water treatment facility that is serving the 2,912 residents of this rural community by increasing water pressure for fire protection while providing safe, reliable drinking water. The new water plant, set to open April 1, is a result of a Water and Waste Water Disposal Loan and Grant. This investment in Dundee’s infrastructure positions the town to “win the future.”
These are but two of the success stories in Florida’s RD portfolio. As we move forward and applications are reviewed, Florida RD will continue to fund projects that promise economic growth for rural communities like Lake Wales and Dundee. These projects clearly demonstrate that Rural Development is committed to the future of rural communities.
To learn more about how USDA Rural Development can assist your community click here.