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Suzette's Letter, April 19, 2017


  1. Strong foundations: the economic future of kids and communities
    Why would the Federal Reserve System, an institution that most of us only think about in terms of interest rates and monetary policy, care about a child's education or the environment he or she grows up in? Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said it all: "Ensuring that all of our kids have 'strong foundations' will help build a similarly strong foundation for the U.S. economy." See what the Fed is doing to help families and communities build these strong foundations
  1. Making a Big Impact with Local Philanthropy

When most of us think of philanthropy, we think big—big dollars, big foundations, big projects. But philanthropy also happens in small, but impactful ways. The concept was well summed up by Ed Aller, a florist from McComb, Ohio, who was a beneficiary of small town philanthropy: “We’re small enough to know people, but yet we're big enough to get things done.” In this blog post we highlight three examples of local philanthropy that made a difference in Community Heart & Soul® towns.

  1. Counting secondary operators triples the number of female operators

Females comprised nearly 14 percent of U.S. principal operators—the individual most responsible for the day-to-day decisions on the farm (or ranch)—in 2012. Considering additional, secondary operators as well as principal operators, however, gives a more complete picture of the involvement of females in farming. Including secondary operators more than triples the count of female farmers—from about 288,300 to nearly 970,000—and increases their share of farm operators to almost 31 percent. Including secondary operators has less of an effect on the number of male farmers, increasing their count by 21 percent, from about 1.8 to 2.2 million. Female secondary operators tend to be less involved in farming than female primary operators. About 33 percent of female secondary operators report farming as their major occupation, compared with 43 percent of female primary operators. Roughly 40 percent of secondary female operators work off-farm at least 200 days per year, slightly higher than the corresponding 35-percent estimate for female principal operators.

  1. State economic development efforts shifting

Traditional economic development efforts at the state level are undergoing increasing scrutiny as budgets are being constrained. Two new studies show a shift in focus away from traditional approaches of tax incentives and reliance on major employers, to broader strategies relying more on the private sector and human capital. A report released by the Delaware Economic Development Working Group recommends shifting many of the core responsibilities of the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) to a new nonprofit. And a report focused on Indiana details the decline in footloose jobs in the state despite local government investments in business attraction, indicating a reevaluation of public policy is needed, the authors contend.

  1. Multinationals, deindustrialization, and regional economic development

Much has been written – both here and elsewhere – about the role of trade and automation in declining U.S. manufacturing employment. Recently released preliminary research published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies finds U.S. multinationals were responsible for a disproportionate share of manufacturing employment declines from 1993 to 2011. These results underscore the challenges facing economic development in deindustrializing regions, particularly those reliant on the branch plant economy.

  1. Imports of fresh and processed vegetables make up an increasing share of domestic consumption
    Trade plays a vital part in both fresh and processed vegetable markets, one that has increased over time. The United States imports a larger amount of fresh and processed vegetables than it exports. This is in contrast with U.S. agricultural trade as a whole, which consistently runs a trade surplus (exports exceed imports). In 2000, fresh and processed vegetable imports represented 12 percent of domestic use each. By 2016, the import share of domestic use had increased to over 30 percent for fresh vegetables and 22 percent for processed vegetables. The export market for vegetables has grown at a slower pace. Processed vegetable exports doubled between 2000 and 2016 from 7 to 14 percent of domestic use, while fresh vegetables decreased from 7 percent in 2000 to 6 in 2016. Growth in vegetable and other food commodity imports has been driven by expanding domestic demand and reduced trade costs like shipping and tariffs. Consumer preferences for year-round availability of seasonal foods and for vegetables not commonly grown domestically have also played a role in rising import shares. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers are predominantly supplied by imports, while cauliflower has the largest export share.
  1. Number of new food and beverage products rebounded in 2016

Introducing “new” products—new package sizes, new flavors, new packaging, and truly new products—is one way that food and beverage companies try to woo consumers and increase sales. After 2 years of declining numbers of product introductions, 21,435 new foods and beverages made their debut on U.S. retail shelves in 2016—the largest annual number of product introductions since 2007. The number of new nonfood grocery items (beauty and personal care; health and hygiene; pet food and merchandise; and paper and cleaning products) increased in 2016 as well. During the Great Recession of 2008-09, consumers sought familiar products and avoided impulse buying. To appeal to bargain-seeking customers who wanted to simplify their shopping trips as well as purchase familiar products, retailers devoted less shelf space to new products. The number of new food and beverage products in U.S. retail outlets, as tracked by Mintel’s Global New Product Database, fell from 22,142 in 2007 to 15,637 in 2009. The number of new foods and beverages rose again in 2010, while new nonfood grocery items continued their downward trend until 2016.

  1. Ford Foundation Commits $1 Billion to Mission-Related Investing

The Ford Foundation has announced plans to commit up to $1 billion of its $12 billion endowment over ten years to mission-related investing — the largest commitment to MRIs by a private foundation to date.

Ford will carve out the funds gradually from its existing investment portfolio and deploy them over time to investments designed to deliver concrete social returns as well as attractive financial returns. Initial investments will focus on areas where the foundation has prior experience and sees both significant investment opportunity and alignment with its mission to reduce poverty and injustice — starting with affordable housing in the United States and access to financial services in emerging markets.

  1. Potential for High-Impact Philanthropy Untapped in South, Study Finds

Communities in the Deep South receive less philanthropic support than those in other parts of the United States, and only a small fraction of those funds supports policy reform or community organizing, a report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and Grantmakers for Southern Progress finds.

The first in a series of reports about opportunities for philanthropy to improve the lives of underserved communities in the South, As the South Grows: On Fertile Soil (17 pages, PDF) found that, between 2010 and 2014, grantmaking by a thousand of the country's largest foundations averaged $41 per capita in the Alabama Black Belt and Mississippi Delta, compared with a national average of $451. And of the $55 million in total grantmaking to those two regions, only 16 percent was designated for community empowerment strategies. In the decades since the civil rights movement, national foundation interest in the rural South has waxed and waned, and foundations based in the region have focused on funding direct service work instead of systemic change strategies....


  1. Rural education levels are improving, but still lag urban areas

Compared with rural (nonmetro) areas, urban (metro) areas have historically had a higher share of adults with bachelor’s, postgraduate, and professional degrees. Between 2000 and 2015, the share of urban adults with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from 26 to 33 percent, while in rural areas the share grew from 15 to 19 percent. This gap may be due to the higher pay offered in urban areas to workers with college degrees. Rural areas have improved in terms of high school completion: The share of rural adults with less than a high school diploma dropped to 15 percent in 2015, close to the share for urban adults (13 percent). The share of adults with an associate’s degree and some college, no degree were also similar in rural and urban areas.


  1. SNAP participation and per person benefits both fell in 2016

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the cornerstone of USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs, accounting for 69 percent of all Federal food and nutrition assistance spending in fiscal 2016. An average 44.2 million people per month participated in the program in fiscal 2016, 3 percent fewer than the previous fiscal year and the third consecutive year of declining participation. Fiscal 2016’s caseload was the fewest SNAP participants since fiscal 2010 and 7 percent less than the 47.6 million participants per month in fiscal 2013. The decrease in 2016 was likely due in part to the country’s continued economic growth as well as the reinstatement in many States of the time limit—3 months of SNAP benefits within any 3-year period—on participation for able-bodied adults without dependents. Per person benefits averaged $125.51 per month in fiscal 2016, 1 percent less than the previous fiscal year and 6 percent less than the historical high of $133.85 set in fiscal 2011.

  1. //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=La&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_blank">Impact Investments in Creative Economy Poised for Growth, Study Finds

A focus on providing impact investments in the creative economy could help stabilize vulnerable communities and attract quality jobs to struggling regions of the country, a report from the //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=Lb&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_self">Calvert Foundation and //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=Lc&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_self">Upstart Co-Lab finds. Funded by the //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=Ld&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_self">John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the report, //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=Le&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_self">Creative Places & Businesses: Catalyzing Growth in Communities (55 pages, PDF), found that while impact investment in the creative economy to date has occurred largely under the radar, the opportunity to generate financial gain and social impact through art, culture, design, and innovation has never been greater. The study identified twenty-six projects in fourteen states with to tal project costs of $1.54 billion seeking impact investment capital between 2017 and 2022, including $338 million in debt financing provided by community development financial institutions and community lenders and $1.13 billion in impact and conventional equity, tax credits, and similar subsidies. Wealth advisors also confirmed to researchers that impact investors are eager to invest in the arts, creative businesses, and so-called creative places — which it defines as multi-tenant affordable real estate projects targeting creatives and benefiting their neighbors....

  1. Schools serve a variety of locally-produced foods daily or more than weekly

Frequent use of local foods in school meals can bolster the market for local agricultural producers and increase student awareness and interest in healthier foods. In school year 2011-12, more than one in five U.S. school districts (22 percent) served at least one locally-sourced food item daily or weekly. The most popular local food categories were milk (offered daily or more than weekly by 15.4 percent of school districts), fruit (offered by 14.5 percent of districts), and vegetables (offered by 12.2 percent of districts). Locally-produced baked goods, meat, and eggs were also served frequently by some districts. A recent ERS report examined characteristics of school districts that frequently serve local foods. Districts more likely to serve local foods daily tended to be larger, in the Northeast, in urban areas, and in States where residents had higher rates of college completion.

  1. Decline in farm share of U.S. food dollar mirrors drop in farm commodity prices

On average, U.S. farmers received 15.6 cents for farm commodity sales from each dollar spent on domestically-produced food in 2015, down from 17.2 cents in 2014. Known as the farm share, this amount is at its lowest level since 2006, and coincides with a steep drop in 2015 average prices received by U.S. farmers, as measured by the Producer Price Index for farm products. ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the farm and marketing shares from a typical food dollar, including food purchased at grocery stores and at restaurants, coffee shops, and other eating out places. 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that the farm share has declined, but the 2015 decline was substantially more than in the three previous years. The drop in farm share also coincides with four consecutive years of increases in the share of food dollars paying for services provided by the foodservice industry. Since farmers receive a smaller share from eating out dollars, due to the added costs for preparing and serving meals, more food-away-from-home spending will also drive down the farm share.

  1. NY launches tuition-free college education for New Yorkers

On April 8, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Excelsior Scholarship program will be included in the state’s FY 2018 budget, after having been approved by the legislature. In its first year, the state will commit $163 million to provide tuition-free options for New Yorkers from ‘middle-class’ families at the state’s public institutions of higher education. Under the Excelsior Scholarship program, students can attend any of the colleges or universities that comprise the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems. After completing their degree, the scholarship requires that recipients must work or live in the state after graduation for the same number of years that they receive support.


  1. Webinar: Economic Development for the Next Generation

Hear Zachary Mannheimer on how creative placemaking creates vibrant, attractive communities with viable business models, enthusiastic investors, and dynamic programs with an eye towards attracting and retaining the younger generation. This 60-minute webinar recorded March 23 is co-hosted with the Citizens' Institute on Rural Design™.

  1. Rural Gateway Peer-to-Peer Conference Call: Rural Economic Development and Infrastructure: A Discussion of Best Practices

The Office of Rural Housing and Economic Development (ORHED) invites you to take part in our next Peer-to-Peer conference call. Scheduled for April 19, 2017, this call will offer participants the opportunity to learn about available funding opportunities through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) for economic development and infrastructure activities.

  1. HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Webinar

A Rural Behavioral Health Webinar Series is offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Mental Health Promotion Branch, Division of Prevention, Traumatic Stress, and Special Programs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The next webinar is “Providing Culturally and Linguistically Competent Behavioral Health Services to Diverse Populations in Rural Communities,” May 17, 2017, 3:00 to 4:30 PM EDT. Other topics in the series are: “Responding to Natural Disasters in Rural Communities,” June 21, 2017, 3:00 to 4:30 PM EDT; and “A Focus on Suicide Prevention in Rural Communities,” August 16, 2017, 3:00 to 4:30 PM EDT.

Suzette's Letter, March 17, 2017


  1. 1.Public and private sectors specialize in different areas of agricultural research

Both the public and private sectors fund agricultural research and development (R&D), but focus on different areas. The private sector specializes in areas where R&D results in improved commercial products and services, particularly food and feed manufacturing as well as farm machinery and engineering. The public sector, in contrast, conducts most of the R&D on areas that have social value, but do not result in easily sold products. These areas include environment and natural resources and human nutrition and food safety. The public and private sectors conduct significant research on plant systems and crop protection as well as on animal systems and animal health. However, a closer inspection reveals that each sector invests in these areas differently. Much of the private R&D on plant and animal systems aims at new commercial products like agricultural pesticides and veterinary pharmaceuticals. In contrast, public R&D focuses on topics like improving field practices and studying pest populations, animal pathogens, and soil attributes.

  1. 2.A declining share of SNAP households contain children

In fiscal 2015, USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provided 22.5 million low-income U.S. households with monthly benefits to supplement their resources for buying food. Of these households, 42.7 percent had children, 20.2 percent had a nonelderly member receiving disability benefits, and 19.6 percent contained an elderly person. The share of SNAP households with children is down from 54.7 percent in 2003, while the shares of SNAP households with an elderly member or a nonelderly member receiving Federal or State disability benefits have remained relatively constant. The fall in the share of SNAP households with children may reflect the increase in participation of households without children due to the tough economic times that accompanied the 2007-09 recession and policy changes that allowed more non-child households to be eligible for SNAP.

  1. 3.Innovations solving higher education challenges

In a world where disruptive innovation can change an entire industry, higher education has remained largely unaffected, according to a recent paper from The Christensen Institute. Innovations in higher education traditionally have centered on changes that allowed the industry to remain competitive and meet new challenges by pushing forward along established trajectories, such as building new buildings or adding new majors. But with technological changes moving deeper into the higher education field, traditional institutions are facing a greater challenge. As those institutions face rising tuition costs, declining state support and affordability issues due to weak wage growth, their business model is vulnerable to threats from larger disruptions. How they choose to respond may determine their future success.

  1. 4.Million-dollar farms accounted for over half of production in 2015

Agricultural production has been shifting to larger farms for many years. Farms with over $1 million in gross cash farm income (GCFI) accounted for half of the value of U.S. farm production in 2015, up from about a third in 1991. Most million-dollar farms (90 percent) are family farms; only 10 percent are nonfamily farms. Larger million-dollar farms (over $5 million in GCFI) nearly doubled their share of production between 1991 and 2015. Smaller million-dollar farms (GCFI between $1 million and $4,999,999) increased their share from 19 percent to 29 percent. This marks a shift in the share of production from small farms (GCFI under $350,000). Small farms accounted for 46 percent of production in 1991; by 2015, they accounted for less than 25 percent. Farmers who take advantage of ongoing innovations to expand their operations can reduce costs and raise profits because they can spread their investments over more acres.

  1. 5.A positive ROI for Regional Innovation Strategies

Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) funding is showing signs of a positive return on investment, according to recently published results by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). RIS, an initiative within EDA’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (OIE), supports innovation-based and cluster-focused activities that seek to spur job creation and economic growth. In just two years, RIS awardees have leveraged $1.30 for every federal dollar requested and created nearly 1,000 jobs, according to the EDA.


  1. 1.Leveraging I-Corps for your region’s innovation economy

How prepared are your initiatives to exploit the I-Corps opportunity and integrate successful outcomes into your innovation strategy? Join SSTI and a panel of practitioners from Columbia University and TechGROWTH Ohio for an honest and interactive discussion about the program’s potential, its early impacts and ideas for how best to leverage I-Corps to achieve even greater economic outcomes in your region. Wednesday, March 22, 3:45 p.m. EDT


  1. 2.Community colleges as drivers of entrepreneurship

Regional innovation economies thrive when a variety of institutions promote entrepreneurship. This joint webinar between SSTI and NACCE will focus on Iowa’s approach to regional innovation, which incorporates the state, industry, universities and community colleges as key partners for a thorough approach to entrepreneurial development. Join us to learn about the Hawkeye state and to discuss tools you can apply to your own region or institution. Thursday, April 20, 3 p.m. EDT

Suzette's Letter, February 28, 2017


  1. 1.First Nations Report Highlights Economic Impact of Tribal Colleges in Northwest Area Foundation's Eight-State Region

A new report from First Nations Development Institute finds that tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) contribute significantly to both short- and long-term economic development in reservation-based Native communities. The study covered TCUs in the Northwest Area Foundation’s eight-state region. The report – The Economic Impact of Tribal Colleges in the Northwest Area Foundation Region — is the first in a new series of short publications called Research Notes that will keep the field updated with timely research about Indian Country. This inaugural report in the series was authored by Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer.

  1. 2.Hoeven Delivers Congressional Response to 2017 State of Indian Nations Address
    The Congressional Response, given by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), to the 2017 State of Indian Nations address. Hoeven, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, touches on healthcare access and quality, veterans' health, homelessness and overcrowding, economic development as it relates to quality of life, the safety and well-being of children in foster care, and resources for victims of violent crimes, among other things.


  1. 1.First Nations Native Arts Initiative Application Q&A Session

First Nations will award up to 15 Supporting Native Arts grants of up to $32,000 each to support projects that aim to strengthen the organizational infrastructure and/or arts programming of Native museums and cultural centers, Native-controlled nonprofit organizations, and tribal government programs. Eligible applicants must have existing program initiatives in place that support Native American artists and traditional Native art forms. An informational session will be held on Thursday, March 2, 2017 to learn more about this grant opportunity and the application process!

  1. Local Innovation Strengthening Economies

The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship is an active member of the Rural Development Innovation Group (RDIG), which is made up of rural development practitioners, intermediaries and others who have been deeply involved in advancing rural community and economic development. RDIG is co-sponsoring with The Aspen Institute a 6-part series of panel conversations focused on advancing a rural opportunity agenda, America's Rural Opportunity. Each panel features rural innovators who, together with their partners, are working to create economic opportunities for rural people, businesses and communities. Here's a snapshot of the first and second sessions:

  • Local Innovation Strengthening Economies, Feb. 10. Read about this session and watch the recorded livestream HERE.
  • Supporting Entrepreneurial Economies, Mar. 17. For details about this session, click HERE. Spots are available in-person in Washington, D.C. or via live feed. While free, reservations for both are required. You can also follow this session on Twitter and Facebook by using #ruralinnovation.

There will be 2 more sessions this spring and 2 in the fall. We will share the topics and dates as soon as they are available!

Suzette's Letter, February 1, 2017


The U.S. Department of Education’s Place Based Initiative Pilot Team, Office of Innovation and Improvement( OII)  and Performance Partnership Pilot Team, Office Career Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) are excited to share a recently released resource titled Family and School Partnership, that is focused on building and improving these valuable relationships.  Educators are increasingly aware that schools alone cannot raise student achievement and research has demonstrated that family involvement is one of the strongest predictors of school success. Many schools and districts are pursuing strategies to deepen their relationships with families and communities to improve student outcomes. Simply put, students are more successful in school and life when their families are engaged in their education. This document highlights the importance of family engagement and family-school partnerships.   It provides schools and their partners with a jumping off point with an overview of key research, best practices, and funding sources, as well as profiles of how two communities are working to improve family engagement.  These efforts incorporate a variety of strategies for schools to employ to welcome and work with families, and for educators and families to use to collaborate effectively. The document also identifies resources to inform and support local action on building effective family-school partnerships.

  1. Regions win through comprehensive workforce development strategy

With job growth for middle-skill level jobs slowing, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and Austin-based nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities studied the nation’s best practices and surveyed regional workforce boards in Texas to determine how communities there are addressing the challenge. Their findings are detailed in the report, Regional Talent Pipelines: Collaborating with Industry to Build Opportunities in Texas, released last month. For a region to succeed in their workforce development efforts, the study states three tasks must be accomplished: identify growth through an industry cluster analysis, convene a sector partnership, and create and strengthen career pathways.

  1. Educational Attainment Rates Remain Lower for Rural Minorities
    Chart showing educational attainment by race/ethnicity for rural adults 25 years of age and older, using 2015 American Community Survey data.
    Sponsoring organization: USDA Economic Research Service
    Date: 01/2017
  1. Housing Needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Tribal Areas: A Report From the Assessment of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Housing Needs
    Provides an overview of housing conditions and needs among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) households in tribal areas. Includes AI/AN demographic, social, and economic characteristics. Also discusses housing produced by tribes using HUD housing funds available through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) of 1996.
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  1. Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) 2013-2014: A Demographic and Employment Profile of United States Farmworkers
    Reports on demographic and employment characteristics of hired agricultural workers in the United States. Includes data on health insurance and healthcare access, as well as information on social determinants of health such as income, education level, language skills, and housing. Based on data collected from face-to-face interviews with 4,235 crop farmworkers conducted between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2014.
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Labor
    Date: 12/2016
  1. Pine Ridge Agriculture Economy (PRAE)
    Describes the initiative on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to enhance the economy of the reservation through job creation. Initiative was designed to help families achieve an acceptable standard of living while utilizing technology and effective value-added techniques, to incorporate sustainable and natural resource conservation, attract individuals to agriculture, and support self-sufficiency, while also creating a sustainable and healthy food supply for the community.
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Date: 01/2017
  1. Veterans in Rural America: 2011-2015
    Reports detailed demographic, social, and economic characteristics of rural veterans, based primarily on 2011–2015 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates. Includes comparisons of rural veterans to both urban veterans and rural nonveterans. Topics addressed include health insurance coverage, disability status and service-connected disability, and use of VA healthcare.
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Census Bureau
    Date: 01/2017
  1. Rural counties’ economies depend on different industries

Local economies and employment levels are more sensitive to economic trends that have a pronounced effect on their leading industries. For example, trends in agricultural prices have a disproportionate impact in farming-dependent counties, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of all rural counties and 6 percent of the rural population in 2015. The boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production increased employment in many mining-dependent rural counties; more recently, lower oil and gas prices have led to reduced oil exploration and economic activity in these counties. Meanwhile, the decline in manufacturing employment has particularly affected manufacturing-dependent counties, which accounted for about 18 percent of rural counties and 23 percent of the rural population.

  1. Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age

A new resource guide for communities on high-speed internet access and digital inclusion has been released by the National Resource Network (NRN), which provides technical assistance as part of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative. NRN partner organization ICMA and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) led a group of six U.S. cities (Chattanooga, Tennessee; Gonzales, California; Greensboro, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Springfield, Missouri; and Youngstown, Ohio) in a first-of-its-kind partnership to develop the resource guide, Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age. Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age is designed to support U.S. communities of all sizes and geographies in advancing their goals for high-speed Internet access and digital inclusion. Representatives of the six cities communicated regularly about the broadband Internet access and digital literacy initiatives underway in their communities, highlighting major obstacles encountered and key lessons learned. By sharing information on programs, practices, challenges, and opportunities from their own communities, these six cities were


  1. Coursera launches MOOCs for governments, nonprofits targeting workforce-development

Online-education provider Coursera has announced a new program that allows governments and nonprofits focused on workforce development to curate massive open online course (MOOCs) that align with labor market needs, and then make these courses instantly available to their constituents. Initial partners of Coursera for Governments & Nonprofits include the United States and six other nations:  Egypt, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Singapore.

  1. 2.HUD Launches New Community Investment Tool

HUD has launched the Community Assessment Reporting Tool (CART), which is an online tool that generates a snapshot of HUD’s investments at the community level. The tool provides an interactive mapping interface that allows users to explore HUD investments within their community and see property- and grant-level detail at a variety of geographies.

  1. Department of Education announced FY2017 TA Opportunities

In November, the Department of Education’s Place Based Office held a session just for Promise Zones at the Promise Neighborhoods Convening. After conducting individual interviews with Promise Zone education partners on their priorities and challenges, ED launched a TA package via webinar in early December that will include affinity and peer cohorts on two-generation strategies, trauma informed care and community schools (the PowerPoint slides and on-pager are attached). In March 2017, ED plans to host a convening in Baltimore for the Peer Action and Learning Network- Community Schools, and a collective impact convening in June in Washington, DC.

  1. Children’s Defense Fund/AASA Toolkit Webinar

The Children’s Defense Fund and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, hosted a webinar on November 30th to provide valuable information on how to support outreach and enroll uninsured students in your community. The webinar referenced the Healthy Students Promising Futures Learning Collaborative, a federal publication focused on state and local action steps and practices to improve school-based health. The recorded webinar can be found here.

  1. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Webinars

AMS will host a webinar for potential FMPP and LFPP grant applicants on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and a teleconference for potential FSMIP grant applicants on Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  For more information about FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP, visit: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSgrants.  The website also contains a link to a grants decision tree, "What AMS Grant is Right for ME?” to help applicants determine which AMS grant fits their project best. AMS will also host a webinar to introduce potential applicants to Grants.gov on Wednesday, February 8, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  Applicants are urged to start the Grants.gov registration process as soon as possible to ensure that they meet the deadline and encouraged to submit their applications well in advance of the posted due date.  Any grant application submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application, read more on AMS Late and Non-Responsive Application Policy



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