USDA announces Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund • Guns and youth in the U.S. • Rural roads still more dangerous • Taxing large supermarkets in the UK • Panning an Appalachian-themed restaurant • A way to invest in renewable energy
Last week, the White House Rural Council hosted a two-day “Rural Opportunity Investment (ROI)” conference to promote potential investment opportunities that exist throughout rural America. The conference brought together leaders from the business community and financial institutions, senior government officials, rural economic development experts and others to begin the process of developing partnerships that will create jobs, grow small businesses, and invest in critical rural infrastructure.
Speakers to the event included Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew, Ken Wilson, vice chairman of BlackRock, and Kentucky Gov. Steve Besher.
In conjunction with this event, the White House Rural Council announced a $10 billion dollar investment fund to promote rural economic development. The fund is meant to speed up rural infrastructure improvements and access to capital. The USDA hopes more investors will add to the initial $10 billion in available capital.
“The ROI conference and the new investment fund are part of the Obama Administration's ongoing efforts to promote investment in rural America, strengthen the nation’s infrastructure, and grow the U.S. economy," a White House press release stated. "Since the creation of the White House Rural Council in 2011, the president has made historic investments in rural America designed to drive job growth, invest in rural education, provide emergency services, and address health disparities.”
– Whitney Kimball Coe
Coal company Alpha Natural Resources plans to lay off 1,100 West Virginia coal workers in the next two months, according to a story by Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette. The layoffs will occur at 11 surface mines and other facilities around West Virginia.
In another piece published on the same day, Ward says public and coal industry leaders are guilty of wishful thinking in asserting that the state's coal industry would bounce back if the Obama administration just got out of the way.
“The best coal has been mined out. It’s pretty well gone,” Ward quotes a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey as saying.
The Guardian (UK) takes a look at gun youth gun ownership in the U.S. and a documentary film about the subject. The piece ,called “Kids, guns and the American way,” tends to lump all of rural America together into one pot, but it’s interesting to see an outsider’s take on this divisive issue.
“[The filmmaker] declines to say if she came out of making the program more sympathetic to the gun lobby or convinced that teaching kids to shoot is, in the U.S. at least, right. But she does point out that there is a huge divide in American society between parents who oppose even buying their children toy guns, and others who are teaching their kids to use the real thing. “
The fatality rate on rural roads is three times higher than the rate on metropolitan roads, according to a new report by TRIP, a transportation research group, as reported in Construction Global. The report blames most of the inequity on “inadequate or lack of road safety features, longer emergency vehicle response times and the higher speeds travelld on rural roads compared to urban roads.”
Citing research that 95% of money spent in a large supermarket leaves the local economy (for independent food stores the rate is closer to 50%), some local councils in the U.K. are proposing a tax on these huge food stores in an effort to recirculate money that would have been lost. According to the Independent:
It is thought that the levy, which would be similar to business rates could raise £400m a year. A charge of up to 8.5 per cent, it would affect large retail outlets with a rateable value over £500,000.
In other food news, the New York Observer Style section reviews a new country-themed restaurant in Brooklyn that is, in the writer’s words, “…a very bad place. Its rottenness is both inherent and cosmetic; it is culinarily insipid and morally insidious…there is a deeply toxic relationship with history and with America embodied at Montana’s Trail House. One need not be from Appalachia to object to the fetishization of that impoverished region for the blithe consumption of faux Brooklyn frontiersmen and women. The miserable condition of Appalachia, a region that runs from New York to Mississippi, is as raw a wound and as deep a shame as a decapitated strip-mined peak.”
In sheer scope of snark and distain, the review stands above most others. It’s worth a read.
A new type of company, yieldcos, is making it easier for people to invest in renewable energy. Energy companies are making these new companies by taking energy assets, renewable and traditional, packaging them and selling stock to investors The name comes from the practice of spreading the income, or yield, from the assets to the investors. Warren Buffet recently invested $15 billion in the type of assets inside these yeildcos. But investors won’t need billions to get in the game. Some of these stocks are available for around $40/share.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports these companies:
Aim to distribute most of the proceeds from generating or delivering electricity to shareholders through a steady stream of dividends. They try to grow the dividend by buying more power projects.”
There are dangers, of course, since it’s still investing. Prices could plummet if interest rates rise, for example.