New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is introducing legislation intended to help rural communities access federal government grants for long-term projects. She was at Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh on Monday to discuss how it would help initiatives like the school’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing.
Senator Gillibrand took a quick tour of the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, a 30,000 square foot facility that opened in 2017 on the Clinton Community College campus that partners with the region’s manufacturers to provide technology and workforce education.
New York’s junior U.S. Senator described how legislation she is introducing would help initiatives like the Institute be funded in rural areas across New York and the nation. The Democrat says the Rebuild Rural America Act would create a $50 billion grant program to specifically target rural regions.
“Federal grants are often too narrow and inflexible to support the development needs of rural communities. Our system simply doesn’t work for rural communities. This bill would level the playing field for rural communities by overhauling our current federal funding models. The block grants would be flexible, allowing the communities to address a wide range of issues and putting the decision making back into the hands of the community members themselves. It would empower communities to invest across a variety of industries to address complex challenges a region may face and help them to grow their economies.”
North Country Chamber President Garry Douglas says many federal development programs are tilted toward urban areas and this bill would help rural development opportunities. "While conceptually they were open to areas like ours, you could never effectively compete. That you could never compete with the metro areas with their numbers and the way things were skewed. She has in recent years changed language, done amendments, added programs that are directed to rural regions.”
The bill includes the formation of Regional Rural Partnership Councils. Gillibrand says the concept predates New York’s Regional Economic Development Councils and is partly based on her past experiences with North Country officials.
“We’re calling for Regional Rural Partnership Councils made up of a cross section of local leaders including elected officials, economic development organizations, cooperatives, higher ed and foundations. That’s what we’ve been doing in the North Country for my entire 12 years in public service, so frankly the idea came from here, and it is the best model because every time we come up with what’s the best way to invest money locally, it’s already agreed upon. All the local leaders have already bought in. All the local employers have already bought in, the community colleges have bought in and the state schools have bought in. So that’s, this is what works. And so it’s really based on what the North Country frankly has been doing since I started out as a House member in 2006.”
Clinton Community College President Ray DiPasquale is enthusiastic that the bill builds in long-term sustainability for grants. “The ability to be able to plan ahead and say we’ve got this finding for five years, potentially 10 years, is what is so critical because so often we’ll get a grant, it’s for one year or two years and then the funding goes away, and you can’t sustain it. This bill would allow $50 billion to be infused into the United States and give us sustainability that whatever we’re doing, if we’re hiring new instruction, if we’re providing training, that people can then begin to plan knowing that that funding will be sustained for multiple years.”
Senator Gillibrand also outlined the Rebuild Rural America Act during a visit to Hudson, New York, with Congressman Antonio Delgado earlier Monday.