The NwOA Quarterly Luncheon was held Monday at the Conference Center.
The Northwest Oklahoma Alliance organizes committees comprised of board members and community members who work to address issues impacting economic development in the Northwest region.
The guest speaker was Kenneth Corn, USDA Director of Rural Development for Oklahoma. Corn served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives at age 22 and later in the Oklahoma State Senate. He also previously worked in the oil and gas transportation industry and was named Anadarko’s City Manager in 2015.
Corn spoke about ways to help communities in northwest Oklahoma with rural development grants.
“We need to figure out what we can do to improve lives and not just for rural communities to survive, but to thrive. The real difference is that we have to talk about our achievements and the goals we want to achieve here,” said. “You see the water and sewage infrastructure, the road and bridge needs, our whole state needs improvement. Public facilities too, whether police and fire protection, storm shelters, public schools.
“My job is to determine how we can get federal resources into the hands of local Oklahoma communities for these projects.”
He said that many communities do not use these programs to bring about improvements in their community for several reasons. First, they don’t know what rural development does and second, the community doesn’t qualify.
“Hollister, Oklahoma is not eligible for any USDA grants due to the median household income requirement. This is a problem for much of western Oklahoma and we don’t think it’s fair, especially for a community that doesn’t have the resources to do these projects. This is something we recommend Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack change because it does not meet the needs of local communities,” Corn said.
The best way for citizens to help make these changes is to contact your local state officials and discuss farm bills. Technical issues and accessing USDA funds for your community.
“If you have an idea for improvement, give us a call and we’ll walk you through the application process. If it’s no this time, don’t give up. It might not be because it’s did not qualify for this project that it is suitable for another program or that a new one may become available later,” he said.
One person during the Q&A session asked if a daycare or after-school program would fall under the categories the USDA could help with. Corn replied, “Yes, it is possible. I visited Western Plains Youth and Family Services and it is a USDA funded program.
Another asked about unincorporated communities. Corn replied, “Yes, we can do that. We could drive around the county and chat with the county commissioners.
Corn also noted that there is a USDA position available at Woodward.