Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hot off the press!

Exciting news for all of us who have caught the vision and understand that insuring sustainability (the good life!) for our rural communities requires a holistic, partnership approach including assessment, planning, developing new partnerships and new community leaders, engaging our youth and bringing them home to a profitable, high quality future, supporting our local entrepreneurs and giving our folks the opportunity to contribute to their own hometowns..........its finally happening, its real and its now.

The Texas legislature has before it right now a bill authored by Senator Lucio which would support RURAL communities, through the Texas Rural Development Fund, in their efforts to help themselves. The exciting thing about this bill is that it includes all parts of the recipe! And is exclusively, specifically RURAL with MONEY. A big bonus here is that both ORCA and TDA have also included funding in their new budgets to dovetail with this Fund and offer additional $$$$ and programs for RURAL communities engaged in this cooperative, innovative, dynamic partnership approach to community and economic development.

I am so proud to be working with folks like you who are committed to preserving our heritage and our hometowns! I want to encourage you to take one more step, let's not let this opportunity slip away from any lack of support or action on our part! The text of the bill outline and a press release follow this message. Read it over and if you believe, as I do, that this is a positive program for rural Texas, call, write or e-mail your Texas Senator and Congressman and urge them to vote for the bill. And then, be sure to share it with your own friends, family and professional contacts and ask them to do the same. Remember this bill benefits rural Texans only, so it is up to us to generate the support needed for it in a public body whose members primarily represent urban constituents. We need their help! Contact and share, two things we must do if we want this support!

Thank you, sincerely,

Remelle Farrar

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Doris Sanchez
Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 Communications Director, 512-463-0385
Sen. Lucio Proposes Bill Again to Establish Texas Rural Development Fund
(Two Pages Total)

Austin, TX --Continuing last legislative session's efforts to revitalize rural Texas and raise its national standing, International Relations and Trade Committee (IRT) Chairman Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. again filed a bill today to establish the Texas Rural Development Fund.

Last session, in an attempt to address Texas ’ standing in the nation in terms of opportunities for non-metropolitan regions, Chairman Lucio authored Senate Bill 1485 to incorporate the recommendations by the IRT Committee in its 79th Legislative Interim Report. SB 1485 would have established the Texas Rural Development Fund and provided the means to afford rural Texas greater support in their effort to comprehensively revitalize their communities. Though the bill sailed through the Senate, it could not pass out of the House of Representatives due to procedural deadlines that stalled the legislation.

"SB 684 this session is warranted because even though the state has the largest rural population nationally, approximately 3.6 million people, it has fallen behind other states in terms of resources and programs," said Sen. Lucio. "The Rural Development Fund is a comprehensive policy that will revitalize non-metropolitan Texas ."

Unlike Texas , other states like Utah , Louisiana and Nebraska have established specific funds/programs that are focused on the development of rural regions. Through these funds, other states provide greater resources and provide more of a comprehensive approach to development for their rural regions than Texas .

Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) Executive Director Charlie Stone said, "It is projected that by 2052, based on its population, the wealth transfer of rural Texas is projected to be nearly $400 billion. If the state does not move to try to recapture this fleeing resource from rural Texas, the outflow of wealth from Texas’ rural communities will negatively impact those communities' potential for growth.”

ORCA also reported that if policies like those of retaining fleeing resources–such as community foundations–are implemented, they will assist rural communities to retain, rather than lose, the resources.

Mr. Stone further explained that “legislation of this type would certainly provide ORCA with the toolkit needed to address long standing challenges facing rural and border communities and help those communities to increase their competitiveness.”

Note: IRT Committee Director Dan Esparza handles this issue for Sen. Lucio and can be reached at 512-463-0385.
(See Bill Highlights Below)

The following are key elements of Senate Bill 684:

1) The Rural Capacity and Leadership Enhancement Program would assist rural leaders in developing and refining the skills needed to effectively and efficiently lead their communities of less than 10,000 in population. Per 2000 U.S. Census, 1,005 of Texas’ 1,192 incorporated places have fewer than 10,000 persons.

2) The Rural Community Asset Study Matching Grant Program would issue grants (with a matching requirement) to allow rural Texans to identify community assets, with the goal of leveraging community strengths to enhance community and economic development.

3) The Rural Area Regional Planning and Implementation Matching Grant Program would issue grants (with a matching requirement) for planning and implementation of regionally-identified objectives. Regions would be self-identified by participants, but program requirements would encourage cross-sector, multi-city and multi-county planning.

4) The Texas Rural Youth Corps Program would develop the next generation of rural leaders by involving youth in decisions that shape their rural communities. The program would work with local organizations to empower youth to improve their lives and the lives of others in their community through public service. Preference for projects that provide youth ages 12 to 18 with an opportunity to earn scholarship awards for community service.

5) The Rural Wealth Creation and Retention Program would assist rural communities in developing community foundations to decrease long-term reliance on state and federal resources. The program would provide supportive services including financial management, strategic development, and education training. For example, the Nebraska Community Foundation has distributed $65 million to community betterment projects of its affiliated funds since 1993 and has nearly $37.2 million in total assets under management.

6) The Rural Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation Program would assist microenterprises, entrepreneurs, and small businesses in rural areas of Texas through the provision of loans for job creation and retention.


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