More than 1,300 community developers from 47 states converged on Des Moines, Iowa, this week to attend the 2011 National Main Streets Conference organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
A key theme repeated during the conference illustrated how communities with healthy Main Street districts are two steps ahead in the race to create and retain jobs.
In small towns all across the country, downtown is typically two or three blocks of businesses run by familiar faces, a place where one knows who is at the local diner by the cars and trucks sitting outside. Ensuring these districts remain vibrant many times requires a significant investment in buildings, capital and infrastructure, often financed through USDA Rural Development.
During the conference, USDA was recognized with the 2011 Main Street Leadership Award for the agency’s long-standing partnerships and commitment to assisting rural communities.
“USDA is a committed partner joining communities as they put their shoulders to the beams and literally and figuratively build stronger businesses, better facilities and more stable communities together,” said Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager, who accepted the award on behalf of the agency.
In rural America historic preservation and economic development go hand-in-hand. Rural communities are the catalysts in developing projects that revitalize our country’s aging downtown districts and buildings.
One of the most popular breakout sessions during the conference featured the many ways USDA Rural Development’s rural rental housing programs have been used across the nation to breathe new life into old, historic buildings. USDA programs have helped create hundreds of new upper-story living units through the renovation of hotels, schools, fire houses, community buildings, and dormitories.
Along with housing programs, rural communities also regularly tap into USDA’s Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) program which provides funds for technical assistance and training and the agency’s Rural Business and Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program to help with financing small and emerging rural businesses.
The work of USDA, through its more than 40 housing and rural economic development programs, and the Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation continually come together to uplift and preserve a strong sense of home in our nation’s hometowns.
To read more about the award, click here.