Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the White House Rural Innovation Fund Press Conference

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, 2401 12th St. NW, Albuquerque, NM
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thank you all for joining us today.

It's a privilege to be here in Albuquerque to announce $28 million in HUD funding to help rural communities across the country tackle their toughest housing and poverty challenges.

And with three of our new Rural Innovation Fund awardees right here in New Mexico, this state will have a unique opportunity to help some of its most vulnerable families be part of a vibrant, 21st century economy.   

That's because, as President Obama has made clear, America will win the future by out-innovating our global competitors -- and unlocking that innovation depends on revitalizing our communities, particularly in rural areas. 

Indeed, just last week, I joined the President in Iowa to participate in the White House Rural Economic Forum--the first presidential rural forum in 16 years--listening to farmers, small business owners, and other leaders share their hopes and ideas to drive economic growth in rural communities. 

In Iowa, and here again in New Mexico, it is clear that rural communities face unique challenges, from inadequate access to health care to a family homelessness rate that is almost double that of cities.

Despite the word "urban" in our agency's name, HUD's work has broad reach across almost every neighborhood in our country -- including those in rural America.

Over the last decade, HUD's Rural Housing and Economic Development program has helped create nearly 12,000 jobs and provided job training to nearly 30,000 people in rural communities.

And the quarter billion dollars HUD has invested in this program has leveraged more than three times that amount in other funds -- providing an excellent return for the taxpayer. But with the Rural Innovation Fund, we will support these kinds of efforts on the larger scale these challenges require.

The Rural Innovation Fund recognizes that you can't build sustainable communities if you have concentrated housing distress and community poverty. 

Building on the commitment of the Rural Housing and Economic Development program, the Rural Innovation Fund takes a more comprehensive approach by helping communities use federal dollars not just on a problem-by-problem basis, but to meet multiple needs -- providing them with a new online Rural Mapping Tool to help them more accurately measure poverty and housing distress.

We estimate that through it, communities across the country will create nearly 800 homes and more than 650 total jobs, including 460 permanent jobs.    

And the Rural Innovation Fund supports communities that have the potential to leverage other sources of public and private funding -- indeed, these communities will leverage more than $18 million in other funds nationwide. 

Our competition challenged localities to come up with innovative solutions to their problems -- and the winners delivered. 

Here in New Mexico, the San Felipe Pueblo Housing Authority will leverage its comprehensive grant to build 12 new affordable homes, create at least 30 jobs, and improve the quality of life for an estimated 115 Native Americans currently living in substandard housing.

The Northern Pueblo Housing Authority will use its grant to address overcrowding, and high rates of poverty by rehabilitating homes to "green" standards while simultaneously offering job training opportunities to local residents.

And with its grant, the Taos Pueblo will kick off a nine-year mission to rehabilitate 320 homes, while providing tribal members with the job training and education they need to compete.

With the Rural Innovation Fund, 46 communities across the country will have a powerful new tool to spur innovation, create jobs, and grow their economies.

And with 55 percent of our awards going to Indian Country, the Rural Innovation Fund is one more example of the Obama Administration's unprecedented commitment to Native communities.

With this new approach, communities will not only have a built-in competitive edge in attracting jobs and private investment -- but also the innovative solutions and partnerships needed to tackle three or four problems with a single investment. 

In a fiscal environment where every dollar counts, that's real "bang for the buck."

That's the kind of partner the Obama Administration is committed to being -- and it's the partner rural communities need to win the future. Thank you.


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