Rural Advanced Manufacturing and Emerging Renewables
Rural America, and especially rural California, offers many benefits to both domestic and international firms seeking potential sites for advanced manufacturing facilities. With the world’s sixth largest economy, major transportation thoroughfares, available regional workforce, and general lower cost-of-living compared to its urban counterparts, California’s rural communities offer a plethora of potential benefits for investors. If coupled with local government officials and community stakeholders championing these efforts, rural California has the potential to attract job-creating enterprises into its communities.
The issue of declining manufacturing in America has been a prevalent topic of discussion from mainstream presidential candidates and the media throughout the current election cycle, and there will undoubtedly be continued focus on how America can rebuild this sector of the economy. As solar, wind and geothermal increasingly play a greater role in energy generation and become more proliferate in the market, the need for advanced manufacturing may well follow, and rural America has many benefits that could attract investment. There are valuable resources available to assist local communities in attracting potential investors. The Department of Commerce’s SelectUSA program, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development’s International Affairs and Trade Development program and California Business Investment Services Unit offer services to assist local communities in connecting with interested investors, help prepare the communities for site visits, provide specific data and informational sources, and serve as a liaison between potential investors and various governmental and regulatory entities.
In order for this potential emerging economic driver to become a reality, addressing infrastructure needs in rural areas is absolutely critical, and the infrastructure investment is not merely limited to transportation projects. Investment in reliable water supplies, grid capacity, broadband and more, are all necessary pieces of the puzzle.
USDA Rural Development Water Infrastructure Funding
The USDA offers loan, loan guarantees and grants to communities with fewer than 10,000 residents through its Water and Waste Water Disposal Loan and Grant Program. This program helps fund projects that provide clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal and solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas. Eligible applicants include municipalities, county districts, authorities or other political subdivisions of a state, territories, or federally recognized Tribes.
Eligible water, waste water, sewage or solid waste project purposes may include the following:
- To construct, enlarge, extend or otherwise improve rural water, sanitary sewage, solid waste disposal, and storm wastewater disposal facilities
- To construct or relocate public or private buildings, roads, bridges, fences, or utilities, and to make other public improvements necessary for the successful operation or protection of facilities
- For payment of other utility connection charges as provided in service contracts between utility systems
Funds may be used for the following purposes:
- Legal and engineering studies
- Land acquisition, water and land rights, permits and equipment
- Start-up construction, operations and maintenance
- Interest incurred during construction
- Purchase of existing facilities to improve service or prevent loss of service
- Other costs determined necessary for completion of the project
For the latest award information in California and the U.S., please click here.
Prop 1 Fund Expenditures
In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 1, which provides more than $7 billion in general obligation bond funding to improve water quality, supply and infrastructure. To date, approximately two percent, or $177 million of the funds have been invested. In this article by Water Deeply, Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California outlines the reasons for the lengthy fund deployment process and what stakeholders at the local and regional level can expect in the near and long-term future.
Senate Passes $9.4 Billion Water Bill to Improve Waterway Infrastructure and Aid Contaminated Water Supplies
On a 95-3 vote, the Senate passed legislation aimed at improving waterway infrastructure and providing assistance to communities with contaminated water supplies. There has been significant media related to the Flint, Michigan crisis, but it is fairly well-known both Californians and Americans alike are experiencing similar emergencies throughout the State and country.
Water Investment and Affordability
As California prepares to deploy funding to construct and rehabilitate desperately needed water projects throughout the state, it will be critical for utilities, regulatory agencies, investors, state and local officials, and customers to engage in the rate setting process to ensure there is a balance between return on investments and the potential impact on ratepayers. The Brookings Institute released an article which starts to address some of the issues that all stakeholders may want to consider as projects start to receive funding.
Broadband deployment throughout rural California will continue to be a critical component to economic growth and job creation, but there are significant challenges that are unique to rural communities. High-cost build-outs in rugged and remote terrain, vast geographical areas, and limited potential customer bases to support the high-cost and many other challenges have limited the available high-speed broadband options for rural communities. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released this toolkit to assist communities in obtaining more broadband infrastructure opportunities.
In addition, the NTIA and National Science Foundation are seeking stakeholder comments to help inform the National Broadband Research Agenda. The purpose of this effort is to obtain public's input will help to improve data collection, analysis and research for the benefit of broadband policy development, program implementation and program evaluation.
The information sought includes input in four areas:
- Broadband technology
- Broadband access and adoption
- Socioeconomic impacts
- Opportunities for federal leadership
The questions generally include:
- What research proposals regarding broadband access should be prioritized?
- How can cross-disciplinary collaboration in broadband research be enhanced?
- What is needed to understand how to reach population groups that have traditionally under-utilized broadband technology?
If you or your agency is interested in submitting comments, please click here. Comments are due by October 11, 2016.
As technological advancements rapidly increase into the early 21st century, the issue of whether technology will create jobs and economic growth looms large. In this Bloomberg article, two economists put forth competing views about the near and long-term impacts technology may have on future U.S. productivity.