While many manufacturing companies provide well-paying jobs and play a vital role in creating vibrant, healthy rural communities, sometimes rural communities may struggle to attract these companies. To help bridge this gap, the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) was created. This Administration-wide effort brings together federal departments and agencies to provide coordinated assistance to communities to become more attractive for manufacturers.
Recently, USDA hosted two IMCP events in Minnesota and California with diverse audiences of about 120 stakeholders representing manufacturing businesses, lenders, economic development organizations, universities and community colleges, small businesses development centers, and local leaders among others. At both meetings, USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno led panels of federal partners that discussed the initiative and sought input on the needs of local manufacturers.
“I am here to see how USDA can help strengthen the manufacturing sector to create sustainable jobs,” Salerno said. “In his State of the Union Address, President Obama said his number-one priority is ‘making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing,’ and these discussions are a great way to leverage local, state, federal and private-sector assistance.”
Both events highlighted the importance of regional strategies with local examples, as well as the essential roles universities, technical and community colleges play in the future of manufacturing.
In Minnesota, the Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Project was featured as a great example of regional collaboration. The Competitiveness Project brings together many regional partners to design an economic development strategy focused on the key assets in southern Minnesota’s 38 counties. And in California, Innovate North State, a public-private partnership focuses on helping innovative growth companies succeed, was highlighted for their regional work.
A panel discussion was held in North Mankato, Minn. at South Central College. Participants heard from Senator Amy Klobuchar, South Central College President Keith Stover and Minnesota State University Vice President Bob Hoffman, CEO of Southwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation Tim Penny, and AgStar Senior Vice President for Investments in Rural Affairs John Monson, in addition to the federal panel. Senator Klobuchar highlighted the current manufacturing climate in Minnesota, which represents 13 percent of all jobs in the state. She emphasized the need to ensure businesses and government can work together to build resources that keep the economy strong and competitive.
Meanwhile, in Woodland, Calif., Federal partners held a roundtable at the Heidrick Ag History Museum. Joining the federal panel was Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) Director Kish Rajan. As a part of the event, a panel of local stakeholders highlighted the building blocks necessary to support manufacturing: technology, goods movements, capital and finance, workforce, local government and bio-economy and provided several recommendations to the federal panel.
Through the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) the IMCP initiative will provide 25 communities with $200,000 awards for implementation strategies later this year, and next year will assist five to six communities for awards up to $25 million each for specific projects necessary to attract investment. USDA will support the initiative through the Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG) program.