WASHINGTON, October 19, 2020

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand today announced that USDA has signed cooperative agreements with five organizations to support placemaking technical assistance throughout the United States.

USDA is providing the assistance through the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC). The department and its partners will help rural communities develop actionable strategies to capitalize on local community assets and potential through the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to the community’s social, physical, and economic well-being. Through RPIC, USDA is empowering rural communities to improve their quality of life and prosperity through revitalization, workforce development, entrepreneurship, broadband, housing, and tourism efforts.

The department is partnering with only five organizations throughout the country who will help develop placemaking plans with leaders in rural communities for the next two years. These organizations are listed below.

In the Northeast, the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC), in Harrisburg, will use a $140,000 grant to provide placemaking services to support downtown revitalization in five separate community revitalization initiatives throughout Pennsylvania: three individual municipalities and partners – New Castle – New Visions; Clarion – Clarion Blueprint Community, Inc. and Reynoldsville – Reynoldsville Community Association and two “regional” programs – The Allegheny-Clarion Valley Blueprint Community (Emlenton, Foxburg and the City of Parker), and the Juniata River Blueprint Communities (Mount Union, Mapleton, and Shirley Township). Funds will be used to develop community assessments, revise and refresh vision statements, strategic action plans, annual work plans, and provide supportive technical assistance through September 2022.

In the South, Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development will use a $215,000 grant to help develop a plan to support rural tourism opportunities; in the Midwest, McClure Engineering Company will use a $215,000 grant to develop a plan to support housing, workforce and broadband development; in the Midwest, Pierce County, Neb., will use a $215,000 grant to develop a plan to support outreach to students and recent graduates for rural entrepreneurship opportunities in the agricultural sector; and in the West, Tolani Lake Enterprises in Winslow, Ariz., will use a $215,000 grant to provide technical assistance to develop a plan to support Tribal lands and tourism for the Navajo Nation.

To be innovative, local placemaking efforts need to understand and adapt to the challenges of current issues. Placemaking is a process that connects vision, strategy, implementation, and funding, into a unified effort that will improve the overall environment and quality of life in a community. To be sustainable, placemaking needs to provide local organizations with the knowledge and skills to understand, to adapt, and to change outdated perceptions and attitudes. We intend the RPIC effort to help communities do just that – Innovate-Succeed-Sustain.

PDC intends for the RPIC effort to help communities innovate, succeed, and sustain with these outcomes: improved community perceptions, increased organizational capacity, better informed organizations, increased volunteerism, and overall increased buy-in to the communities’ revitalization effort.

Existing local, regional, statewide, and national public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic partnerships will be assessed and encouraged to be expanded during this project. Newly identified partners will be encouraged to participate, including but not limited to diversity, equity, and inclusion practices so that organizational representation better matches the socio-economic profile of the communities they serve.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with USDA Rural Development and honored to be one of only five selected programs. We look forward to using this new and exciting initiative to bring more attention to Pennsylvania’s rural communities, by helping to increase local capacity, and by growing and enhancing existing implementation and funding partners. This is an opportunity to build from recent investment from the Federal Home Loan Bank in Pittsburgh (FHLBank) Blueprint Communities program and assist the communities in their next phase of revitalization,” says PDC’s Executive Director, Julie Fitzpatrick.

Founded in 1987, the mission of Pennsylvania Downtown Center is to build and support the capacity of local nonprofit organizations, municipalities, and individuals to enhance the overall well-being and sustainability of Pennsylvania’s core communities. PDC accomplishes this mission by engaging and educating local community leaders and volunteers, to advance the sense of place, quality of life and economic vitality of the Commonwealth's downtowns, traditional neighborhood business districts and nearby residential areas. For more information about designated Main Street or Elm Street programs or nationally accredited communities, contact Maria Wherley at (717) 870-9334 or email here.

Contact: Maria Wherley, Pennsylvania Downtown Center, Inc.
(717) 870-9334 or mariawherley@padowntown.org
PO Box 1265
Harrisburg, PA 17108
(717) 233-4675