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Deputy Under Secretary Visits Successful Rural Initiatives in Illinois

Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien talks about the how his agency’s programs can help develop and expand business development in rural areas.

What do 13 doctors in Southern Illinois, hundreds of outpatients and a bilingual library have in common?  USDA Rural Development! Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien recently visited the Monroe County Surgical Center in Waterloo and the Fairmont City Library Center in the Illinois Metro East area near St. Louis.  Both were recipients of Rural Development funding during the last two years.  O’Brien saw in person what the two have in common…success of two local projects that are models for other businesses and communities eligible for Rural Development funding.

In Waterloo, O’Brien found that a good working relationship among the borrower, lender and Rural Development allowed the Monroe County Surgical Center to start construction faster and open for service sooner.  First Bank in O’Fallon used a Rural Development Business and Industry loan guarantee to provide the center with affordable loan terms for the new building. The center has been offering ambulatory surgery in 13 specialties for seven months.  Residents appreciate knowing the local doctors and staff, as well as enjoying lower costs and convenient scheduling.  The center is on track to meet their goal of performing 1,760 surgeries annually.

O’Brien’s second stop was at the Fairmont City Library Center where he met with board members and Library Director Barbara Rhodes.  The Mississippi Valley Library District purchased the old American Legion building to meet the needs of a previously un-served area of the district.  The building needed a lot of renovation, but it offered the best option for quickly establishing service for the community with is burgeoning Latino population.

Monroe County Surgical Center Business Office Manager Brandy Nyberg; from USDA Rural Development, State Director Colleen Callahan, Business Programs Specialist David Chestnut, Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien; First Bank Vice President Donna Luechtefeld-Tebbe; Rural Development Area Specialist Gary Mersinger; and First Bank Southern Illinois Region President Douglas Distler discussed how their collaboration is helping the surgical center chalk up successes.

The library district jump-started the renovations with a Community Facilities grant from Rural Development.  The funds were used to renovate the restrooms, construct a new main entrance and provide a 24-hour book and mail drop.  Rhodes believes the grant was a springboard to other funding opportunities. Beyond library services, the center now offers scores of services for the community, including English language instruction, tutoring, college classes, YMCA activities, college test preparation, a meeting place for the Latino Roundtable, and a teen technology initiative.

District Library Director Barbara Rhodes shares information on the value of Fairmont City Library Center’s computers with Rural Development State Director Colleen Callahan and Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien. Students use the library center’s computers for school work and the teen technology program that prepares them for jobs that require technology skills.

O’Brien found many reasons for the library center’s success.  According to Rhodes, the grant was a springboard to other grant awards.  Rural Development was one of few sources of bricks-and-mortar funding available to the library.  In addition, Rural Development was able to offer the library a personal touch throughout the process, readily offering guidance and quick responses.  With the library’s clear focus on what it needed, Rural Development helped create an outstanding community asset Fairmont City.

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