Plattsburgh, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today visited Norsk Titanium in Plattsburgh to call for her bipartisan legislation, the Rural Jobs and Investment Act, to be included in the final Farm Bill that is currently being negotiated. Gillibrand’s proposal, which already passed with bipartisan support in the Senate and was included as an amendment to the Senate Farm Bill that passed on the Senate floor in June, would expand access to much-needed resources and investment for rural entrepreneurs in the North Country to start and expand local businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54 percent of North Country communities saw more businesses close than open from 2012 to 2016. During that same time, 47 percent of North Country communities faced declining employment.
“One of my most important priorities in this year’s Farm Bill is bringing jobs back to our rural communities,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “There are so many hardworking New Yorkers in rural communities all over our state who have great ideas to start and grow businesses like Norsk Titanium. My bipartisan Rural Jobs and Investment Act would make it easier for entrepreneurs to get their ideas up and running, it would promote investment in our rural communities, and it would create jobs. I will continue doing everything I can in the Senate to make sure that this provision passes into law.”
“Rural communities like the North Country are plentiful with creative entrepreneurs seeking to start up businesses to benefit our economy,” said NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones. “The inclusion of Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan amendment will give local developers, along with the support of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, access to funding that seeks to increase job growth and economic development across our region. I am pleased to join Senator Gillibrand in introducing this amendment and I look forward to its passage in the Senate.”
“We thank Senator Gillibrand for this initiative which would truly enhance the availability of rural development resources in the North Country,” states Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce. “It has been our pleasure to support this legislative effort along with other partners such as the Farm Bureau and, with hoped for final passage, we foresee accessing these federal funds in ways that will directly support economic development across the rural counties of the region.”
In 2017, the North Country Chamber of Commerce was awarded $74,000 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) current Rural Business Development Grant. These funds are supporting the Chamber’s efforts to strengthen the North Country’s growing transportation equipment manufacturing sector, which includes assistance to Nork Titanium.
Gillibrand’s bipartisan proposal creates a new grant program that could build on this comprehensive initiative to invest in local efforts to launch new companies and create new jobs in the North Country’s transportation equipment manufacturing sector. The grant program would invest up to $2 million per award to community-driven initiatives to help improve the local economies of rural areas by doing the following:
- Helping rural entrepreneurs and businesses connect to new domestic and international markets;
- Providing skills training to prepare workers for quality jobs and providing businesses with the workforce they need for success;
- Investing in infrastructure upgrades required to support new business growth, including the deployment of high-speed internet service;
- Turning more research and development at universities and other research institutions into new companies and business growth; and
- Revitalizing downtowns with new innovation centers to serve as spaces for mixed-use housing, business development, training, and co-working.
This proposal would also expand the use of the USDA’s Community Facilities Program to invest in business incubators, makerspaces, and job training centers in order to provide additional resources for communities to support their entrepreneurs. The Community Facilities Program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and grants to improve public services and public facilities in rural communities.
In addition, the provision would also expand access to capital for rural entrepreneurs by encouraging investment to rural areas. Currently, the USDA has one program to help address these capital challenges, the Rural Business Investment Program, but this program is limited in the types of industries that it can invest in, as well as the amount of capital it can attract. Gillibrand’s provision would improve the program by allowing investments across all industries, encouraging more capital to be invested in rural entrepreneurs.
This bipartisan provision is cosponsored by U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), and has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau, Farm Credit Council, National Association of Counties, National Association of Development Organizations, National Cooperative Business Association, and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership.