WVPA Sharing

West Virginia Rural Partners Network holds second annual forum to connect communities with federal funding opportunities

West Virginia Press Association

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development joined the WV Community Development Hub, Glenville State University, community leaders and state and federal partners this week at the 2nd Annual Rural Partners Network Federal Partners Forum in Summersville. The event brought together more than a dozen federal, state, local and philanthropic resource partners with community stakeholders to build connections and create new opportunities for potential federal investment in West Virginia.

“The Biden Administration is laser focused on creating new opportunities in rural West Virginia from the bottom up and middle out so that our rural communities are economically diverse and more resilient,” said West Virginia State Director, USDA Rural Development, Ryan Thorn. “This event highlights the unprecedented resources that are available from federal, state, and local agencies to help strengthen our rural communities and grow our small businesses. Through the Rural Partners Network this Administration is working to make sure that our most underserved West Virginia communities have the resources they need to not just survive but thrive and prosper going forward.”

This fall marks two years since the Biden Administration launched the network in West Virginia to ensure people in historically underserved communities receive their fair share of funding from federal agencies. Since its launch, USDA has provided more than $1 billion to support approximately 4,700 economic development projects in RPN communities across the country.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is making historic resources available to ensure everyone in rural communities has what they need to thrive,” USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dr. Basil Gooden said. “In communities across West Virginia and the entire country, USDA is working hand in hand with people to ensure all can access our programs to enhance their overall quality of life. That’s why we continue to champion initiatives like the Rural Partners Network, because we know a strong rural community is one that can create long-term economic growth on its own terms.”

The RPN Resource Partners Forum took place on June 4th and 5th at the Summersville Area and Conference Center. The event included panel discussions on the current challenges and opportunities associated with workforce development, economic development, housing, health and wellness and infrastructure in West Virginia. Those in attendance learned about available state and federal resources to help rural communities and small businesses achieve their goals.

In conjunction with the event, Under Secretary Gooden announced that, beginning June 1, 2024, Rural Development is now awarding extra points to program applications seeking funding for projects in RPN communities. Rural Development is incorporating the additional points for RPN projects into its existing “priority points” framework.

Those in attendance also heard from keynote speaker Dilawar Syed, Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Investing in rural communities is a priority for the Biden-Harris administration, and SBA,” said Deputy Administrator Syed. “More than 47,000 West Virginia founders have started a small business since President Biden took office. We look forward to deepening our partnership with the Rural Partner Network and our resource partners to build on this historic momentum in the Mountain State.”

Background: Rural Partners Network

The Rural Partners Network is an all-of-government program that helps rural communities find resources and funding to create jobs, build infrastructure, and support long-term economic stability on their own terms. More than twenty federal agencies and commissions are members of RPN and have a “Federal Desk Officer” dedicated to actively engage with RPN stakeholders across community networks. Today, there are more than thirty federal designation RPN “Community Networks” across ten states and one territory.

In West Virginia, the Southern West Virginia Community Network, hosted by the WV Community Development Hub, and the Pioneer Community Network, hosted by Glenville State University, encompass 20 counties in central and southern West Virginia and are home to more than 448,000 people.

More on the Rural Partners Network can be found here: www.Rural.gov.

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Feature image caption: USDA Rural Development joined the WV Community Development Hub, Glenville State University, and over 200 community leaders and state and federal partners on June 4-5 in Summersville at the 2nd Annual Rural Partners Network Federal Partners Forum.

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