Broadband could benefit from new Obama rural jobs initiatives
President aims to spur rural small business growth, expand loans for rural healthcare
President Obama devoted considerable attention to rural America this week, hosting a Rural Economic Forum in Iowa organized by his recently created White House Rural Council, issuing a report summarizing actions taken by his administration to promote rural economic development and announcing several new rural employment initiatives. Broadband was a topic that came up frequently amid this flurry of activity.
“Rural America—represented by its peoples, businesses, and communities—is central to the economic health and prosperity of our Nation,” wrote Obama in an opening letter to the “Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America” summary report. “Rural communities provide our country with affordable agricultural products, competitive manufacturing capabilities, and an independent, renewable energy supply. These communities are also stewards of America’s great outdoors—an important source of jobs and an invaluable treasure for all Americans.”
The new jobs initiatives
Although the new jobs initiatives announced this week do not focus directly on broadband, several of them are likely to have a broadband element.
These include plans to double of capital for the Small Business Investment Company program (reportedly at no cost to taxpayers) and to organize a series of Rural Private Equity and Venture Capital conferences nationwide with the goal of connecting rural startups with potential funding sources. It would seem that either of these initiatives could help jumpstart a range of rural businesses that rely on broadband connectivity-- such as rural call centers that leverage broadband connectivity and cloud computing to enable people to work at home (CP: Reverse call center outsourcing driven by broadband could create one hundred thousand U.S. jobs).
Another rural job creation initiative announced this week is a plan to link rural hospitals and clinicians to capital loan programs to enable them to purchase software and hardware needed to implement health information technology. Broadband undoubtedly will be part of this software and hardware investment.
More to come?
In the summary report, Obama noted that he established the White House Rural Council to “accelerate the ongoing work of promoting economic growth in rural America.” In the coming months, he said, the Rural Council will focus on “spurring agricultural innovation, expanding infrastructure, increasing access to capital in rural areas for small businesses, and creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.”
Broadband is one of three focus areas for “promoting innovation and investment” outlined in the report, along with investing in clean and renewable energy opportunities and the more nebulous “developing high-growth regional economies by leveraging rural strengths.”
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