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USDA Deputy Under Secretary Hosts Rural Business Leaders at a White House Rural Council Regional Innovation Event

One of the best things about working for USDA as a deputy under secretary for Rural Development is the ability to meet with so many brilliant business leaders from around the country.  Last week, at the White House, I met with dozens of folks to discuss economic development and community renewal efforts.

We talked about Regional Innovation, one of several topics the Obama Administration is emphasizing to revitalize rural areas. Improving access to capital, building out broadband, developing renewable energy and establishing regional food systems will increase productivity and economic growth in rural America.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan speaks to the White House Forum on Regional Innovation in Rural America at the White House, Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan speaks to the White House Forum on Regional Innovation in Rural America at the White House, Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

The focus of the “Regional Innovation in Rural America” forum was to develop strategies to leverage infrastructure investments in rural communities that help create jobs and boost economic development – key elements of communities that are built to last. The forum highlighted how the federal government has supported efforts in rural regions to revitalize the economy.

For example, the Obama Administration earlier this year announced a $15 million multi-agency Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenge to spur job creation and economic growth in distressed rural communities. President Obama recently announced the challenge as part of the Administration’s “We Can’t Wait” efforts to strengthen the economy, create jobs and support business growth.

One of these efforts is the Stronger Economies Together (SET) initiative. It was launched in 2010 by USDA Rural Development and the nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers and their land-grant university partners. SET enables rural communities and counties to work together to implement multi-county economic development blueprints that strategically build on a region’s current and emerging economic strengths. SET is now in place in nearly 40 regions in 19 states.

To read more about the Rural Council, click here.

Left to right, Doug McKalip, Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Doug O'Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, USDA, Maria Zimmerman, Deputy Director of the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Shelly Poticha, Director of Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, HUD at the White House Forum on Regional Innovation in Rural America at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, in Washington D.C., on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

Left to right, Doug McKalip, Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Doug O'Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, USDA, Maria Zimmerman, Deputy Director of the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Shelly Poticha, Director of Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, HUD at the White House Forum on Regional Innovation in Rural America at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, in Washington D.C., on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

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