LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive Tuesday establishing the Office of Rural Development within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
It’ll focus on all rural matters, provide guidance on pressing issues in rural Michigan and offer insight on how the Whitmer-Gilchrist administration an invest in these communities, according to a news release.
“Rural Michigan is a fundamental part of Michigan’s economy,” Whitmer said. “By creating the Office of Rural Development, we are recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities in our rural communities and implementing policies and making investments to put Michiganders first. This new office will play a crucial role in supporting MDARD’s efforts and leading new ones as we all work together to build a more prosperous rural economy.”
“We are committed to investing in our rural communities and businesses through job creation, broadband and infrastructure expansion,” said Gary McDowell, MDARD’s director. “The new Office of Rural Development will be laser-focused on reinvigorating Michigan’s rural economies and being their partner on the critical issues they are facing.”
The Office of Rural Development will have the following responsibilities, among others:
- Collaborate with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and other stakeholders on rural economic development
- Collaborate with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to facilitate rural affordable housing development
- Promote sustainability, environmental preservation and green energy development
- Address the ramifications of population and demographic trends in rural Michigan
- Analyze and provide guidance on education-related issues affecting rural communities
- Collaborate with the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office to facilitate expansion of high-speed internet connections in rural communities
- Coordinate with tribal leaders in this state on issues facing rural Michigan
A new senior leader at MDARD, the deputy for rural development, will run the office and be the state’s point of contact for community leaders on rural issues.