The University of Alaska Center for Economic Development (UA CED) was awarded a Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) in the amount of $200,000. UA CED was also awarded an additional $70,000 in funding through a Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG).
UA CED will use the $70,000 RBOG funding to support Alaska SourceLink Business Resource Connect Project, which will provide broadband technical assistance to small business entrepreneurs in southwest Alaska through e-business training and consulting to facilitate success in the digital marketplace.
"This project will distribute funds to historically underserved portions of Alaska. The focus area will consist of five key boroughs and census areas: the Wade Hampton Census Area; the Bethel Census Area; the Bristol Bay Borough; the Lake and Peninsula Borough; and the Dillingham Census Area," said Jim Norlund, Alaska state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD).
"This region has an Alaska Native population exceeding 80 percent with more than 21 percent living below the poverty level. The Rural Cooperative Grant and RBOG grant were targeted to build on the success of the TERRA-SW project funded by the USDA-RD’s Rural Utilities Service Broadband Initiatives Program. The TERRA-SW project provided vital broadband infrastructure to 65 communities in Southwest Alaska," Nordlund added.
The RCDG grant will support the UAA Community and Economic Development’s Cooperative Development Center. "We have worked with a wide variety of groups interested in forming cooperatives, from oyster farmers and small sawmill owners in southeast, to salmon fishermen, farmers, artists and village utilities in south central, interior and western Alaska. Recently our program has been an active partner with groups creating food co-ops, including co-ops in Juneau, Sitka and the new Cooperative Market that opened in Fairbanks this year. Co-ops are an underappreciated tool for economic development and we hope that this grant will help us continue to raise awareness of the cooperative business model," said Christi Bell, Director, UA Center for Economic Development.
"USDA-Rural Development has been a long-standing partner of the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development and we are excited about the opportunity to once again work together to support the needs of Alaska’s rural communities. These two grant awards will be essential in helping us carry out our mission of supporting economic development activities in some of the state’s most impoverished areas. USDA-RD has been a tremendous resource and one that we will continue to work with in the future," Bell added.
Reprinted from press release on the USDA website.