BY ARLISA ARMSTRONG
Growing up on a family farm in West Tennessee, I remember my parents sharing with me the struggles of rising to the middle class. They had humble beginnings owning a small frame house before they could build a new house on the same property. This was accomplished with the help of Farmers Home Administration, now known as USDA Rural Development. It is an honor to represent our agency and its mission to build prosperity for rural America.
Last week, President Biden used his first State of the Union address to talk about where our country is and where we are headed.
The president mentioned a lot of things we can be proud of and even more to look forward to, especially in rural America.
The country has faced profound challenges over the past year, and the people of rural America know it better than anyone.
But rural communities are resilient, and as rural America’s success goes, so does the rest of the country.
That’s why the progress we’ve made in rural Tennessee over the past year is a good sign for everyone. By investing in water and broadband infrastructure, rural business opportunities, and America’s food supply chain, USDA helps communities build the foundation for sustained economic growth.
In fiscal year 2021, Lauderdale Community Hospital received a $7.5 million commercial and industrial loan to purchase hospital assets to prevent the West Tennessee rural hospital from closing. . This purchase maintains the access of very poor rural areas to emergency medical care during the COVID 19 pandemic, the employment of highly qualified professionals (saving 72 jobs) and the possibility of creating new employment opportunities.
These investments create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas. They help grow the economy from the bottom up and from the middle as the president said. And they contribute to a circular economy where the resources and wealth we build in rural Tennessee stays right here in Tennessee.
And they are just the beginning. In the State of the Union, President Biden has pledged to build a nationwide network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, begin replacing toxic lead pipes — so that every child — and every American — have clean water to drink at home and at school, to provide affordable high-speed Internet service for every American – urban, suburban, rural and tribal communities.
The Biden-Harris administration’s plan for the economy is already producing historic wins, and anyone can participate, regardless of zip code.
That’s why we’re optimistic that our best days are ahead of us.
By giving everyone a fair chance and providing equitable access to federal resources, we can do our part to realize the President’s economic vision. That means making more stuff right here at home, strengthening our supply chains, and lowering costs for working families. It means giving people the opportunity to earn a good living without having to leave the communities they know and love.
For many of us, that means staying here in rural Tennessee.
(Arlisa Armstrong is the Tennessee State Director for Rural Development at the USDA)