Whitmer establishes new rural development office

Governor Gretchen Whitmer hosted a virtual panel discussion to highlight her latest executive directive establishing the Office of Rural Development within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). The panel discussion included MDARD Director Gary McDowell, Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Quentin L. Messer, Jr., and several key rural stakeholder groups.

From my first day on the job, I have focused on the significant structural challenges our state faces as we grow Michigan’s economy, create well-paying jobs, and build the industries of the future, which include our strong food businesses and agricultural “, declared Governor Whitmer. “The Office of Rural Development will be a critical part in how we meet these challenges, create a resilient and equitable Michigan while opening the door to exciting new opportunities within our rural communities. We will continue to build on our economic momentum starting in 2021, when we created 145,000 jobs, and will pursue a holistic approach to growing our economy.

The Rural Development Office will assist MDARD in its continued mission to focus on economic, social and educational needs in rural areas while being a key connection point for leaders and stakeholders in rural communities across the state and in putting Michigan front and center. Additionally, the office will be a crucial part of MDARD’s workforce initiative to encourage job seekers and new talent to investigate careers related to food and agriculture.

“Michigan’s food and farm businesses are a powerhouse for the economic engine of the state. I am delighted that the Rural Development Office is building on this foundation, ”said Gary McDowell, Director of MDARD. “This office will focus on a variety of issues, including investing in small and local businesses, securing new and expanding broadband access, and providing critical jobs along the chain. food supply. “

“The creation of this office is an exciting victory for all of Michigan, but especially for our friends and neighbors in rural communities across our state who deserve to have more coordinated and easier to navigate access to government, resources, programs. and opportunities. Michigan’s farms and other rural businesses are the backbone of these communities and provide jobs and civic activity sponsorships essential to make Michigan what it is, ”said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We look forward to expanding our partnership with this new office over the next several years as we continue our efforts to create an economy where everyone in our state is visible, participating and thriving.”

The Rural Development Office will have, among others, the following responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and other stakeholders on rural economic development;
  • Work with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to facilitate the development of affordable rural housing;
  • Promote sustainability, environmental preservation and the development of green energy;
  • Address the ramifications of population and demographic trends in rural Michigan;
  • Analyze and provide advice on educational issues affecting rural communities;
  • Work with the Michigan High Speed ​​Internet Office to facilitate the expansion of high speed Internet connections in rural communities; and,
  • Coordinate with tribal leaders in this state on issues facing rural Michigan.

“Rural communities are essential to the economic success of our state and they cannot be left behind,” said Chuck Lippstreu, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “The creation of this new office of rural development demonstrates a significant commitment by our state government to help address the many enduring and unique challenges facing rural Michigan residents and businesses on Main Street.

“I thank Governor Whitmer for taking steps to establish the Office of Rural Development. Those of us who live and work in rural Michigan often feel left behind when it comes to state initiatives, ”said Wilfred Cwikiel, Director General, Beaver Island Community School. “The Office of Rural Development will ensure that the needs of rural Michigan residents, whether educational, economic, environmental or health-related, are at the forefront. “

“I am very happy to hear that Governor Whitmer has established an office for rural development,” said David B. Jahn, President and CEO of War Memorial Hospital. “This will provide much needed assistance and support for rural health issues, which are very different from the issues facing urban health care providers. Connectivity to remote rural areas will only improve the quality of care that everyone in Michigan should be able to access. “

“It is encouraging that Governor Whitmer’s first executive directive for 2022 focuses on the formal establishment of the rural development office within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development,” said David Emmel, President, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance. “Building a strong and sustainable economic development ecosystem focused on the unique needs of rural Michigan communities is something that will benefit people in rural Michigan and set the stage for communities and individuals to achieve economic potential and prosperity. increased. Our economic alliance, like so many others, looks forward to working closely with MRARD Director Gary McDowell, MEDC CEO Quentin Messer Jr. and their teams, to bring this directive into action. “

InvestUP joins a diverse set of stakeholders statewide in congratulating Governor Whitmer for establishing the Michigan Office or Rural Development to help build prosperity in rural communities across the state “, said Marty Fittante, CEO Invest UP. “The Office is a major victory for the communities, businesses and institutions of the UP by focusing systematically, singularly and systematically on solutions to the compelling, unique and complex challenges that lie behind the challenges facing our rural communities. . Executive Order 2022-1 builds on the partnership that worked together on this initiative, including Governor Whitmer, Chief Executive Officer Gary McDowell, senior administrative staff, the Upper Peninsula Legislative Delegation, in particular Senator McBroom , and local UP and state economic and community development organizations. We are grateful to the Governor for her leadership and to Director McDowell for her continued commitment to making the Office of Rural Development a reality, a reality that positions Michigan as a national leader in rural prosperity.

“Housing development in Michigan becomes more and more difficult as you move into smaller counties and communities in our state,” said Yarrow Brown, Executive Director, Housing North. “Housing North is pleased to support the opening of the Office of Rural Development and to contribute to the Office’s goal of facilitating the development of affordable rural housing. “

“The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance applauds the establishment of this office and looks forward to working together as close partners in the important work ahead,” said Sarah Van Horn, President of the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and President of the Charlevoix Chamber of Commerce. “This office can lead efforts to create more specific tools and programs to help rural communities and businesses thrive so Michigan can be a national leader in rural economic growth and stability.”

A new senior officer at MDARD, the Rural Development Assistant, will head the office and be the state point of contact for community leaders on pressing rural issues. The person designated as Rural Development Assistant will have demonstrated competence in the issues facing rural Michigan.

See a copy of the executive directive here:

ED 2022-01 MI Office of Rural Development (final signed) .pdf

See the opening remarks of the rural roundtable here.

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