Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
Over the next two days, I will join several colleagues for a rural swing in North Carolina and Louisiana to promote jobs and innovation. Along with Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development Doug O’Brien, Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Christopher Masingill, I will attend events in rural America and tour two projects that were among the 13 winners of this year’s Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.
The Rural Jobs Accelerator—designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council—is a joint effort of 13 federal agencies, working together to help accelerate economic and job growth across rural regions. It is a great example of collaboration across federal agencies to pool resources and identify new, innovative ways to create an economy built to last.
Since taking office three and one-half years ago, President Obama has been deeply committed to strengthening rural economies all across America—helping to create jobs, support business growth, and expand opportunity for rural Americans. The administration has advanced new policies and initiatives and made significant investments in rural communities. The Rural Jobs Accelerator builds on those goals, seeking to foster job creation and business innovation in these communities.
Today in Candler, North Carolina, we joined Scott Hamilton, CEO of AdvantageWest Economic Development Group, and Joe McKinney, executive director of Land-of-Sky Regional Council, for a tour of the Blue Ridge Food Ventures kitchen incubator, where we launched an exciting new initiative, the “WNC AgriVentures—Cultivating Jobs and Innovation” project. It will impact an impressive 23-county region of western North Carolina to accelerate business and job opportunities in sustainable agriculture and natural resource–based sectors, including local, organic foods; value-added food and natural products; craft brewing; and agritourism, ecotourism, and bio-based products.
Tomorrow we head to Ruston, Louisiana, to meet with Louisiana Tech University president Dan Reneau and Winrock International’s director of U.S. programs, Annette Pagan, to spotlight another Rural Jobs Accelerator winner—the I-20 Corridor Regional Accelerator. This project will engage small towns and rural communities to stimulate new economic activity and quality job growth in such key regional industry clusters as information technology, energy, green technology, and biosciences. Funds from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) will be used to support Louisiana Tech’s efforts to leverage regional resources by providing technical assistance, individualized business support, and professional networking services for local businesses.
Recently, President Obama noted that “As we continue to fight our way back from the deepest economic crisis in generations and build an economy that lasts, rural America is helping to lead the charge.” These two projects will help do just that by creating well-paying jobs in growing industries, attracting private sector investment, and strengthening emerging regional innovation clusters.