Exploring rural development programs in Baraga County

L'ANSE, Mich. (WLUC) - Community members gathered at the Baraga County Chamber of Commerce building on Wednesday for an informational meeting with officials from the Rural Development division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The meeting focused on different financial programs available to Baraga County for rural development purposes.

"Often, many rural communities don't understand the breadth of resources we have available," said USDA Rural Development State Director, Jason Allen.

USDA Rural Development offers over 40 financial assistance programs that range from housing loans and repairs, to water and sewage upgrades and business development.

"What we find is that with this myriad of resources we have available, so many of our communities may struggle to have a plan. After they get the plan, we have the ability to finance,” Allen said.

With many towns in the U.P. having old, outdated infrastructure, USDA Rural Development Area Director, Don Gerrie, said more and more communities are taking advantage of USDA financing for infrastructure upgrades.

"We have had probably the most funding success with our water and waste programs. We've had a lot of systems that needed work, needed improvements, or even needed to be created, so we have funded that at a very high rate in the last several years,” Gerrie said.

The overall goal with these meetings and with the programs, Gerrie added, is to bring more people and jobs into rural communities such as those in Baraga County.

"These are programs that are designed to assist communities, non-profits, and businesses that can't get the financing under conventional guidelines. It's important for us to make sure we reach out to everybody across the UP,” said Gerrie.

For more on USDA Rural Development programs, click here.

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