I recently attended the USDA Rural Regional Innovation Roundtable discussion about the Strong Cities Strong Communities (SC2) initiative. Rural Development staffer Robert Tse shared his work on regional economic development in the Fresno, CA region. The Fresno SC2 is a multi-agency collaborative effort that is creating benefits for rural economies through agricultural and technology development. The project is also revitalizing downtown Fresno and through innovation is creating economic development opportunities in the San Joaquin Valley, which dominates California crop production.
Much of the economic opportunity in California is based around agriculture since CA produces 52% of US fruit and nuts (92% of the tree nuts!), 23% of US milk, 48% of US fresh market vegetables and 56% of US processing vegetables. Concerns about water and environmental issues are creating partnerships with technology to be more resourceful.
One of the examples Robert Tse explained was expansion of broadband in rural areas for the benefit of crops instead of the people who live there. He explained that in areas with broadband, water control devices can be controlled through wireless broadband to sense water saturation in fields. The sensors can call for irrigation when it is needed and turn it off when the soil has been saturated to root level. This type of technology lowers input costs, decreased water usage by 40% and decreased electricity usage by 10%.
The Fresno SC2 project was funded through the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which “leverages existing financial and technical assistance resources from 13 federal agencies and bureaus to spur economic growth in rural areas in approximately 20 regions to be selected through a competitive inter-agency grant process. The Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) announcement is open from March 8, 2012 to May 9, 2012.
“Funds awarded to the winning applicants can be used to support and accelerate a range of projects including improving rural communities’ capacity and ability to undertake projects related to housing, community facilities, or economic and community development along with creation of regional linkages that connect communities with innovation clusters and regional opportunities leading to job creation, expanded markets, and economic growth.
“The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge offers a combination of $15 million in funding from four agencies and technical assistance resources from nine additional agencies and bureaus. This opportunity will support customized solutions targeted to address the gaps and opportunities specific for individual regions by strengthening linkages to self-identified, high-potential industry clusters in competitively selected rural regions across the nation and across all sectors.
“Regional Innovation Clusters (RICs) provide a globally proven approach for developing regional economic prosperity. The Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is designed to accelerate the benefits of RIC-based economic development, including business formation and expansion, job creation, and enhanced competitiveness in America’s regions by coordinating federal resources to support the development of self-identified, high-growth clusters. The Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is a project of the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters (TARIC) and the White House Rural Council, in partnership with many other federal partners.
Other important documents for info are the Press Release, Rural Jobs Accelerator Executive Summary and Frequently Asked Questions. Or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and Appalachian Regional Authority (ARC) are providing additional funding for projects located within their service region.
DRA grant funds may be used to assist in the economic development of rural areas by providing technical assistance for business development and economic development planning.