LGV selected for USDA rural innovation initiative

The Letchworth Gateway Villages Initiative and its network of partners have been chosen as just one of 47 efforts nationwide to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Innovation initiative.

The USDA program will provide technical assistance resources to Letchworth Gateway Villages to help build long-term economic growth.

The Letchworth Gateway Villages application included almost 40 co-applicants from five different counties. The application is aimed at revitalizing the Genesee Valley’s rural economy through sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation, according to Nicole Manapol, director of Letchworth Gateway Villages. initiative

“This is an incredible opportunity,” said Manapol. “It is a testament to the work of the diverse groups who came together to develop our application that it was selected and viewed as a top proposal. Having access to high quality technical assistance and an intentional and coordinated planning process will help connect these various efforts and sharpen the focus of our collective resources on catalyzing targeted growth in our rural economy.”

The USDA’s Innovation Center launched the Rural Economic Development Innovation, or REDI, initiative specifically to promote collaboration to overcome multi-jurisdictional challenges in rural areas as well as to support regionalized planning to better leverage, federal, state, local and/or private funding.

Through cooperative agreements with leading rural development consulting firms the USDA will provide selected applicants 12 to 18 months of technical assistance to develop an economic development plan in an area of targeted strength. This technical assistance will result in a strong regional economic development plan that identifies projects that may be eligible for other Rural Development programs and provides a blueprint for leveraging other federal, state, local, or private sector resources.

The USDA awarded $1.2 million in cooperative agreements to these partners in September 2018. The agreements will help the partners finance the free technical assistance. The partners are the National Association of Counties Research Foundation, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, McClure Engineering Company, and Purdue University Extension/Community & Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky.

Letchworth Gateway Villages will work with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership through its WealthWorks model. Areas selected to participate in this planning initiative with LGV include Allegany, Livingston and Wyoming counties, plus rural areas within Monroe County (Scottsville, Town of Wheatland) and Genesee County (Pavilion, Le Roy).

Key contributors and participants in this effort include the Genesee River Wilds, Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway, Friends of Letchworth State Park, SUNY Geneseo, The Genesee Valley Health Partnership, the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Workforce Development, and education, planning and economic development organizations in Allegany, Wyoming and Livingston counties. Multiple private sector businesses are also involved.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (www.rcap.org) will deliver technical assistance utilizing the WealthWorks model (www.wealthworks.org) focused on helping rural regions and communities identify existing wealth or assets to build upon, recognize market opportunities and connect local assets to real market demand. WealthWorks allows local leaders to focus on what they have—instead of what they lack—to generate multiple forms of wealth that benefit residents today and for generations to come while rooting value in local people, places, and businesses. WealthWorks offers a systematic approach that engages a wide range of community partners in turning enterprising opportunities into results. This model can complement or incorporate traditional economic development methods, but intentionally focuses on creating more value that becomes rooted locally. WealthWorks’ value chain approach is a self-sustaining, distinctive economic development model. Value chains develop from local assets, holistically building relationships and filling gaps to link local small businesses and entrepreneurs with identified market demand.

Letchworth Gateway Villages is a municipal collaboration aimed at catalyzing economic growth and new tourism-related market opportunities for the communities serving as gateways to Letchworth State Park and the broader Genesee Valley Region. Through network-building, technical assistance, and research, LGV serves as a vehicle to build the regional cooperation critical for realizing our communities’ long-term economic potential. For more information, visit: www.letchworthgatewayvillages.org.