PRESIDENT Barack Obama has directed his Administration, working through the White House Rural Council, to lead a new "Made in Rural America" export and investment initiative.
The initiative is charged with bringing together federal resources to help rural leaders and businesses take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets abroad.
Specifically, the President has instructed his Rural Council — in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, Export-Import Bank, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and other agencies — to commit to connecting more rural businesses of all types to export information and assistance through a comprehensive strategy.
"I'm directing my Administration to launch a new 'Made in Rural America' initiative to help more rural businesses expand and hire and sell more products stamped 'Made in the USA' to the rest of the world because we've got great products here that need to be sold, and we can do even more to sell around the world," Obama said during his remarks at Michigan State University, where he signed the farm bill on Feb. 7.
Over the next nine months, five Made in Rural America regional forums will be held to promote rural exports by providing rural leaders and businesses with information about federal and other resources available to help expand exports.
Working with local partners, including the National Association of Counties, the Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission, these export-focused regional forums will help rural businesses take advantage of new market opportunities by providing training from experienced exporters and federal officials on the basics of exporting, accessing federal support and participating in major trade events and trade shows across the country as well as overseas trade missions.
Additionally, the initiative plans to hold an Investing in Rural America conference later this year to connect major investors with rural business leaders, high-level government officials, economic development experts and other partners.
The conference, hosted by the White House Rural Council in coordination with USDA and other partners, will promote opportunities to invest in rural America by highlighting successful projects in energy, biofuels and bioproducts, infrastructure ranging from transportation to water systems to telecommunications, health care, manufacturing and local and regional food systems.
The initiative will also include training sessions to equip local USDA Rural Development staff in all 50 states plus territories with the tools they need to counsel businesses on export opportunities and resources. The commerce department, through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, will cross-train USDA Rural Development staff so they can better deliver support or refer rural businesses to federal services.
Through the program, a variety of resources will be available for rural business operations looking for marketing opportunities or expansion. It will provide enhanced export counseling for rural businesses to connect with foreign buyers through the commerce department's U.S. Export Assistance Center trade specialists in more than 100 domestic locations and in collaboration with USDA's field staff. Additionally, it will coordinate across the Administration to promote rural-produced goods and services at trade events such as trade missions, buyer programs, trade shows and other promotion programs.
Finally, the "Made in Rural America" initiative will use the BusinessUSA online platform to better connect rural businesses with export and investment resources and coordinate support from across the federal government. Obama launched BusinessUSA last year to serve as a one-stop-shop that matches businesses and entrepreneurs to a full range of services and resources available to them at every stage of development.