HONESDALE (March 18, 2021) – The US Department of Agriculture designated Wayne County as a “Regional Community of Faith and Opportunity,” unlocking one-on-one technical assistance from the federal agency and others.
Jacqueline Davis Slay, Acting Director of the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, made the announcement on Tuesday, noting, “This designation expresses our belief in you and your ability to positively change your community.”
USDA launched the Center for Community Prosperity program in 2018. Communities engage in a bottom up, locally driven process to address challenges in their region, and foster hope, opportunity, wealth creation, and asset building in rural and underserved areas. These efforts aligned perfectly with what Wayne Tomorrow! was already doing since 2013.
The journey to the designation began in the fall of 2019, when Wayne Tomorrow! was invited to a Center for Community Prosperity Training Summit at Penn State University. Wayne Tomorrow! Community Network Specialist Kim Rickard was one of several presenters and gave an overview the initiative and the challenges the county and its growth initiative face. Wayne Tomorrow! submitted a comprehensive application in July of 2020.
Part of the plan is to help communities establish "Local Prosperity Councils" that engage the OneUSDA Team, federal, state, regional organizations and public and private entities in meeting and overcoming the challenges rural communities face. The designation entitles Wayne County to custom and tailored technical assistance from a USDA Liaison who will assist the county on USDA programs and initiatives. The liaison will develop and maintain partnerships with key USDA stakeholders to encourage and enhance greater outreach between USDA stakeholders, agencies, and staff offices.
In its application, Wayne Tomorrow! listed a handful of priority projects that could benefit from the technical expertise of Oneida Team and its partners, including the development of resilient local food system through the Wayne County Agriculture Innovation Center and the proposed Recovery to Work Ecosystem in partnership with SCI Waymart.
The application also targets infrastructure and resiliency through projects like expanding Broadband services, development and preparation of industrial spaces to attract higher wage employers, strategic investment in education infrastructure and programming for post-secondary and career training and addressing rural transportation issues.
Other projects address the need for affordable rental units as well as more upscale rental housing to meet workforce recruitment needs of established and future businesses, and develop a system of Community Hubs that can strengthen communities by providing opportunities for social interaction, increasing access to resources and utilizing more countywide facilities.