Haslam, others hail bill providing $10M in grants to rural development

Gov. Bill Haslam staged a ceremonial signing for the Rural Economic Opportunity Act of 2016″ in Huntington Friday and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd — among the host of officials gathered for the occasion — promised the $10 million allocated will be spent promptly in grants, according to the Jackson Sun.

The bill (HB2570)…passed through the legislature unanimously and was officially signed by Haslam in April.

“Some of our more rural areas have struggled a little bit more,” Haslam said. “By the way, it’s not just in West Tennessee, it’s all across the state. And it’s not really just in Tennessee, either. That’s true across the nation, our rural areas are struggling with job creation more than maybe our urban and suburban areas are.”

The new law gives $10 million to help rural communities by implementing Propelling Rural Economic Progress (PREP) funds which will be used to help develop industrial sites and tourism spots. The law also makes it easier for businesses moving to rural counties to receive tax credits for their move.

Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer, said the law will help “level the playing field” between rural Tennessee and its more populated sectors.

…Boyd said the money will be given out by competitive grants….

“The $10 million will be spent right away,” he said. “There’s no reason for us to sit on the money; there’s people in need today.”

However, the money is only allocated for 2016-2017. There is currently no plan in place to extend funds into 2017-2018 and beyond.

“This is onetime money for this year’s initiatives,” Boyd said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be successful and we can prove return on investment, and if we can we hope we’ll be able to get more funds in the future.”