Trump administration invests more than $4.5M in Alabama HBCU, rural development projects
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) Alabama State Director Chris Beeker this week announced several major new investments by the administration of President Donald J. Trump in projects across the Yellowhammer State.
The largest investment is going to Talladega College, Alabama’s oldest private historically black college (HBCU).
“It’s exciting to help increase the capacity and competitiveness of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in rural America to ensure that future generations of American students have access to the highest quality education with modern facilities,” stated Beeker.
Talladega College will reportedly utilize a $3 million loan through the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program for the completion of the Dr. Billy C. Hawkins Student Activity Center honoring its 20th president and a residence hall to accommodate much-needed on-campus student housing.
“Because of the opportunities in education, employment and community stability they provide to their hometowns and beyond, higher-education institutions are cornerstones for prosperity in rural communities across the country,” added USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural higher-education institutions, and especially HBCU’s in building stronger and more prosperous futures for generations to come.”
Next, the Trump administration is investing $840,000 in Perry County to improve essential community services. This also comes through the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program.
The Perry County Commission will reportedly use the funds to repair embankments and culverts, channel protections measures, re-grade ditch lines and repave roadways throughout the jurisdiction. Many county roads were severely damaged by a storm in the summer of 2018. In total, there were over 40 sites county-wide affected. These vital upgrades will repair roads regularly used by area residents and emergency personnel and will allow them to travel safely in this rural Black Belt community.
“Our roads are a vital piece of infrastructure in our rural areas and such an essential component of the U.S. economy. We are proud to provide financial assistance to improve safety and access to opportunity for all— especially rural areas,” Beeker commented. “Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Purdue, USDA Rural Development has been working tirelessly to be a strong partner to rural Alabama in building stronger and healthier communities.”
Additionally, the administration is investing $436,600 across four separate projects to improve community facilities and provide essential services in Jackson County, Lawrence County and Limestone County. These investments again come through the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program.
Details of these investments as follows:
- In Jackson County, the town of Section will use a $36,600 Community Facilities Direct grant to construct ADA Accessible parking spaces and ramps at the Section Sports Complex. The facility has gravel parking and no sidewalks or rails and has uneven footing. The upgrades will allow disabled, special needs, and elderly individuals to easily and safely access the park and seating area.
- The Skyline Volunteer Fire Department in Scottsboro located in Jackson County will use a $172,00 Community Facilities (CF) Direct loan and a $27,300 Community Facilities Disaster grant to purchase a new fire truck and fire extinguishing equipment. The new truck will replace one that is over 30 years old. The fire truck and associated equipment will enhance the volunteer fire departments ability to provide public safety as a first responder and will increase efficient response times to better serve the rural residents.
- In Lawrence County, the town of Town Creek will use a $120,000 Community Facilities Direct grant to purchase a sanitation truck and new trash cans that will be used to start a new sanitation department in the town. The town currently pays an outside vendor for sanitation services. This project will allow the town to provide sanitation services to the residents and eventually save tax dollars by not having to pay the outside vendor for these same services. It will also provide job opportunities in the rural area.
- In Limestone County, the East Limestone Volunteer Fire Department will use a $80,000 Community Facilities Direct loan to purchase 25 new turnout gear and equipment for the East Limestone VFD in Athens, Alabama. Their turnout gear and equipment are old and close to the expiration date, creating a safety issue for first responders. The purchase will help keep first responders safe and better equipped while serving this rural community.
“It is gratifying to be able to provide much-needed financial assistance to our first responders and small towns because it ensures essential services to the local rural communities,” Beeker said. “Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Purdue, USDA Rural Development continues to be a valuable partner in helping rural Alabama communities thrive.”
Finally, the Trump administration is investing $270,500 in Dallas County and Marengo County through the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) Program.
In Dallas County, the city of Selma will use a $125,000 Rural Business Development grant to purchase furniture, fixtures and equipment to lease to the St. James Hotel. The historic downtown hotel was constructed in 1837 but had declined in recent years and closed in July 2017. The facility is being rehabilitated and expanded to create additional hotel rooms. Reopening the hotel will create over 60 new jobs.
The Marengo County Commission will reportedly use a $145,500 Rural Business Development grant to resurface a parking lot and install HVAC to the Marengo County Business Development Center in Linden. The center is currently used as a business incubator. The important improvements will seek to help attract new businesses to the center.
“There is no doubt our small businesses have been significantly challenged over the course of the year. It’s encouraging to have a USDA Rural Development program that offers financial assistance for workforce development, business development and job creation,” Beeker concluded. “Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Purdue, USDA Rural Development has been working diligently to be a strong partner to rural Alabama small businesses.”
This continues a long line of funding announcements made by Beeker on behalf of the president’s administration since 2017.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn