Governor Signs Connecting Rural Maryland Act of 2017

Governor Larry Hogan signed into law Senate Bill 717/ House Bill 1169 – Connecting Rural Maryland Act of 2017. The legislation establishes the Task Force on Rural Internet, Broadband, Wireless, and Cellular Service. The 22-member task force, which includes four members of the Senate and four members of the House of Delegates, must study and make recommendations regarding how Western Maryland counties; Southern Maryland counties; Eastern Shore counties; and Frederick, Carroll, and Harford counties can work together to obtain federal assistance to improve internet, broadband, wireless, and cellular services and accessibility in the affected counties. By November 30, 2017, the task force must report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.

Rural Maryland Council Executive Director, Charlotte Davis, has been named as the Chair of the task force. “The lower population density of rural areas presents unique challenges in the deployment of broadband. The greater the geographical distances among customers, the larger the cost to providers looking to serve those customers. There is less of an incentive for companies to invest in broadband in a rural region than in an area where there is more demand, more customers with higher incomes, and less cost to the service provider,” said Charlotte Davis, “The task force will also examine the various types of cellular service available and assess which type of cellular service would be most effective for Rural Maryland communities.”

“Studies show that for every household that can access the internet, wages go up. For a myriad of reasons, from the ability to seek better jobs to access education and skills necessary to compete in today’s workforce, broadband is incredibly important,” said Josh Hastings, Chair of the Rural Maryland Council. “Broadband expansion also immediately impacts the economy through important construction jobs.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, over 324,000 rural Maryland residents lack access to highspeed internet. In a study published in July 2013, 3.2% of Maryland’s population lacks access to fixed broadband. However, of that figure almost 20% (19.2%) of that population resides in our State’s rural areas.

For more information about the Task Force on Rural Internet, Broadband, Wireless and Cellular Service, visit the Rural Maryland Council at rural.maryland.gov.

Founded in 1994, the Rural Maryland Council (RMC) is an independent state agency that brings together rural leaders, government officials at all levels, and the representatives of the non-profit and for-profit sectors to develop public policy solutions to the challenges unique to rural Maryland. RMC operates under the direction of a 40-member executive board in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner. It serves as the state’s federally designated rural development council and functions as a voice for rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts.

Rural Maryland Council Accepting Applications for Rural Community Needs

rural marylandOn June 20, 2016, the Rural Maryland Council is accepting applications for its Fiscal Year 2017 Rural Maryland Prosperity and Investment Fund (RMPIF) grant program for entrepreneurship, infrastructure and health services. Applications and instructions for RMPIF are available on the Rural Maryland Council’s website at www.rural.maryland.gov. The deadline for applications is August 15, 2016; grant awards will be announced to the public on October 14, 2016. Questions regarding eligibility and criteria may be directed to: Charlotte Davis, RMC Executive Director, at (410) 841-5774.

The objective of RMPIF is to help raise the overall standard of living in rural areas to a level that meets or exceeds statewide benchmark averages by 2030, while preserving the best aspects of a cultural heritage and rural way of life. Resources provided to the Fund are designed to facilitate significant targeted investments in important economic and community development programs and promote regional and intergovernmental cooperation. “These investments will enable local and regional public and nonprofit organizations to leverage additional non-state financial and human resources to facilitate the realization of sustainable rural development objectives,” said RMC Chair, Doris Mason. “Grant funds will also be used to encourage collaboration amongst rural organizations and local governments and encourage the creation of new partnerships.”

For Fiscal Year 2017, proposals will be accepted for the following areas: rural regional planning and development councils, rural entrepreneurship development, regional infrastructure projects, and rural health care organizations. Eligible applicants must be a local government, institute of higher education, regional council, or be a 501(c)(3) IRS tax designation or similar, and serve a regional or statewide rural constituency. Projects must be regional, covering two or more counties, or intergovernmental (including municipalities or local governments). Projects may include non-rural counties; however, the majority of service must be provided in rural areas. Community Colleges, Career Technology Centers, Regional Councils and Libraries are eligible applicants.

The Rural Maryland Council (RMC) operates under the direction of a 40-member executive board in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner. It serves as the state’s federally designated rural development council and functions as a voice for rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts. The vision for RMC is the ultimate realization that residents in rural communities are achieving success in education and employment, have access to affordable, quality health care and other vital public services, and live in an environment where natural and cultural resources are being sustained for future generations.

Rural Maryland Council Elects 2016 Leadership

The Rural Maryland Council met on Wednesday December 2, 2015 in Annapolis and elected officers for the 2016 calendar year. The Council elected the following officers:

Chair: Ms. Doris Mason

First Vice Chair: Mr. Josh Hastings

Second Vice Chair: Mr. Matt Teffeau

Ms. Doris Mason currently serves as the Executive Director of the Upper Shore Regional Council where she provides leadership on key projects for the USRC as it partners with public and private entities to optimize the physical, economic and social well-being of the residents of Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties. “I am looking forward to serving the residents of rural Maryland and am excited for this opportunity,” said Ms. Mason. “We plan to focus our leadership towards enhancing our state’s investments in our rural areas through the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund, so that our rural regions can grow economically to be the prosperous places we know they can be.”

Mr. Josh Hastings currently serves as Policy Director for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy where he monitors land use policies at the local, state, and federal government levels. “With the 2016 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly fast approaching, we look forward to continuing our conversation regarding rural economic development, protection of agricultural lands and encouraging the development of renewable energy.”

Mr. Matt Teffeau serves as Assistant Government Relations Director for the Maryland Farm Bureau where he is responsible for issues in transportation, wildlife, energy and poultry. “Agriculture is an essential part of our rural economy. We want to ensure its continued viability while protecting our rural communities and cultural heritage.”

Mr. Scott Warner of the Mid-Shore Regional Council serves on the RMC Executive Committee as the Immediate Past President.

Since its inception in 1994, the Rural Maryland council is the only state-wide entity working to advance the interests of rural Marylanders across the State. The 40-member Board represents each rural region including the rural for-profit and nonprofit communities, elected officials from the State and local levels and federal, state and local agencies. The RMC represents approximately 1.6 million Marylanders. Since 2001, the RMC has awarded almost $3.3 million in small grants to rural areas serving nonprofit organizations that undertake statewide and regional planning, economic and community development and forestry education projects. For Fiscal Year 2016, the Council will focus on broadband, agriculture, youth, energy, workforce and economic development and health care.

Maryland Agricultural Education Grants Announced

The Rural Maryland Council is pleased to announce the winners of grant funding for Fiscal Year 2015 from the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund. Established in 2000, the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistant Fund (MAERDAF) offers important financial support to rural-serving nonprofit organizations that promote statewide and regional planning, economic and community development, and agricultural and forestry education efforts. The Fund also providestargeted financial assistance to community colleges that support small and agricultural businesses through enhanced training and technical assistance offerings.

During Fiscal Year 2015, a total of 54 rural-serving organizations submitted applications requesting more than $1,000,000 in grants from the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund. This year, however, only $170,000 was available which was distributed to 17 rural-serving nonprofits. Recipients are:

· Adkins Arboretum, Ltd: $6,850
· Caroline Economic Development Corporation: $11,504
· Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, Inc.: $10,000
· College of Southern Maryland Foundation: $11,500
· Crossroads Community, Inc.: $4,875
· Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center: $14,923
· Enchanted Haven Horse Rescue: $8,000
· Evergreen Heritage Center Foundation, Inc.: $23,500
· Habitat for Humanity Choptank: $6,150
· LEAD Maryland Foundation: $10,000
· Lower Shore Land Trust: $7,054
· Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts: $2,500
· Off Street Sports Performance: $15,000
· Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area: $15,500
· Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art: $12,795
· Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council: $4,882
· Women Supporting Women: $4,908

Between FY 2001 and FY 2014, the MAERDAF program has awarded more than $2.8 million in grants to 57 rural-serving nonprofit organizations. Many of these organizations have been able to establish or continue programs and projects that have had a significant and positive impact on Rural Maryland because of the MAERDAF program. Moreover, the Fund has helped many nonprofits develop
institutional capacity, improve grant-writing skills, and enhance the internal development of volunteer boards and staff.

The Rural Maryland Council administers MAERDAF in partnership with the Maryland Departments of Agriculture Health and Mental Hygiene Business and Economic Development, Housing and Community Development, and Natural Resources.

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Rural MD Council Accepting FY2015 MAERDAF Grant Applications

The Rural Maryland Council will accept grant applications to the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund (MAERDAF) through midnight July 11, 2014. For Fiscal Year 2015, the RMC will receive $167,000 to provide grants to rural-serving nonprofit organizations that promote statewide and regional planning, economic and community development, and agricultural and forestry education. Also eligible are rural community colleges that support small and agricultural businesses through enhanced training and technical assistance.

The Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund (MAERDAF) is administered by the Rural Maryland Council. MAERDAF’s goal is to increase the overall capacity of rural-serving nonprofit organizations and community colleges to meet a multitude of rural development challenges and to help them establish new public/private partnerships for leveraging non-state sources of funding.

The RMC has been instrumental in improving economic and rural development. When rural-serving nonprofit organizations noted that they lacked access to philanthropic dollars they need to undertake important community and economic development projects, the RMC led the effort to establish MAERDAF, which provides small grants to rural-serving nonprofits and community colleges. Between FY 2001 and FY 2014, MAERDAF awarded nearly $3 million in grants to rural organizations leveraging this funding into a total of $11 million.

The RMC is the only entity in state government specifically designed to convene rural leaders across the state and across disciplines to identify economic development challenges common to rural areas and to develop and implement realistic, workable solutions. The RMC is an independent state agency and federally designated State Rural Development Council under the USDA’s National Rural Development Partnership. Our mission is to bring together federal, state, county and municipal government officials as well as representatives of the for-profit and nonprofit sectors to identify challenges unique to rural communities and to craft public policy, programmatic or regulatory solutions. As a collaborative partnership, the RMC operates under the guidance of a 40-member Executive Board, in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner.

For more information and an application, visit the RMC website: rural.maryland.gov

Gov. O’Malley Signs Bill Addressing Rural Disparities

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law House Bill 1024/Senate Bill 137 – Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund – Revisions and Extension of Termination Date. This legislation is a step to addressing disparities in the State’s rural areas. This legislation extends the fund’s authorization from 2020 to 2030, increases the capacity of the five regional councils and expands programming to include health care.

The Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund (RMPIF) was authorized by the General Assembly in 2006. The primary goal of the Fund is to provide targeted investments to various regional, nonprofit and educational entities in order to bring Rural Maryland’s standards of living up to statewide averages. The Governor is authorized, but not required, to include an appropriation in the annual Budget Bill for fiscal years 2008 through 2020.

About one-quarter of Maryland’s population live in eighteen rural counties. Many of these communities, especially in the outlying regions, have higher rates of poverty and unemployment and lower rates of income and educational attainment than their metropolitan and suburban neighbors. Agricultural and resource-based industries continue to support the local economies but are increasingly under threat from outside competition, land development pressure and regulatory changes. Access to health care providers and services presents additional challenges.

The Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund can offer important targeted investment to promote economic prosperity in Maryland’s traditionally disadvantaged and underserved rural communities. By sustaining efforts to promote rural regional cooperation, facilitating entrepreneurial activities and supporting key community colleges and nonprofit providers, the quality of life in Rural Maryland can be advanced over the next several years.

The Rural Maryland Council is an independent state agency and Maryland’s federally designated State Rural Development Council under the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Rural Development Partnership. Our mission is to bring together federal, state, county, and municipal government officials as well as representatives of the for-profit and nonprofit sectors to identify challenges unique to rural communities and to develop and implement policy solutions.

Rural Maryland Council Welcomes New Board Members

Nine regional leaders were recently elected to the board of directors of the Rural Maryland Council (RMC). RMC is an independent state agency that brings together rural leaders, government officials at all levels, and the representatives of the non-profit and for-profit sectors to develop public policy solutions to the challenges unique to rural Maryland.

Elected to a one year term ending in 2014 are:
*Loretta Lodge, executive director of the Kent County Chamber of Commerce, representing District 4 – Cecil, Kent, and Queen Anne’s counties.
*Stephen Wright, Ph.D., associate dean/associate director of University of Maryland Extension.
*John Hartline, executive director of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.
*Craig Hartsock, council president of the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc.

Elected to a two-year term ending in 2015 are:
*David Smith, town manager for the Town of Hancock, representing Maryland Municipal League.
*Perry Stutman, Queenstown town commissioner, representing Maryland Municipal League.
*Santo Grande, chief executive officer of Delmarva Community Services, representing Maryland Association of Community Action Agencies.
*Al Silverstein, president and chief executive officer of the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce.
*William McGowan, Ed.D., USDA Rural Development state director for Delaware and Maryland.

“Having a diverse board helps us respond to the many and varied needs of our constituents,” says Charlotte Davis, executive director of the Rural Maryland Council. “I look forward to working with our new board members in the coming years as we tackle the challenges our rural communities face,” she adds.

Founded in 1994, the RMC operates under the direction of a 40-member executive board in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner. It serves as the voice of rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts.

To learn more about the Rural Maryland Council call (410) 841-5774 or email rmc.mda@maryland.gov.