ROYALTON, VT, Dec. 14, 2015— After years of operating in basement offices scattered throughout town, Royalton town officials celebrated the opening of their new office building Monday with local, state, and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials. USDA Rural Business Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers used the occasion to announce a new USDA initiative that will set aside $300 million in USDA Rural Development grants and loans for regionally significant projects.
“Royalton’s new town office building is one of the first projects in the country to receive USDA grant and loan funds as part of a new community and economic development initiative emphasizing the importance of strategic regional planning,” said Rikkers. “By adhering to the Regional Plan, Royalton has ensured that this new facility benefits both the local community and the region as a whole. Regional planning is a critical keystone to building sustainable rural communities.”
The Strategic Economic and Community Development Initiative, included in the 2014 Farm Bill, directs the USDA to prioritize projects that tie into long-term regional plans. Rikkers announced that the USDA will dedicate $300 million in loan and grant funds for the initiative across four USDA Rural Development programs this year: the Community Facilities Loan and Grant Program, the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program, and the Rural Business Development Grant Program.
Royalton used a $600,000 USDA loan and a $50,000 USDA grant to construct and equip the new municipal building. The new building will increase the town’s capacity to serve its residents and those of the surrounding towns of Hartford, Tunbridge, Bethel and Sharon. The new facility will enable the town to provide police and rescue services to the region through mutual aid agreements. Royalton cited the 2014 Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Plan in its application, which made it eligible for the Strategic Economic and Community Development Initiative funding.
During Monday’s announcement, Rikkers announced that the Vermont Technology Alliance (VTA), a non-profit business alliance which supports and promotes Vermont’s technology industry, received a $50,000 Rural Business Development Grant through the new regional initiative. The VTA will use the grant to market and develop technology-based jobs across the state, with an emphasis on rural areas like Royalton. The VTA’s application tied into workforce development goals outlined in Vermont’s Statewide Community and Economic Development Strategy recently completed by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
USDA, through its RD mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $211 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont/New Hampshire Rural Development website at www.rd.usda.gov/vt or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000.