The economic recession that struck the United States in 2008 has been felt particularly hard in Michigan. The state economy has long been sluggish since the decline of the auto industry and the recent economic downturn has helped drive young people out of the state. Rural communities in particular have suffered from the demographic decline. Recent census information shows that the rural Michigan population is far below the state average, particular in the 18-35 age group.
Locals hope that the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help revitalize the rural economy and help staunch the hemorrhaging of young people. As part of the USDA’s recent rural internet program, Owendale, Michigan and other small towns are set to receive over $125 million in federal funds to create a wireless internet network, which they hope will help stimulate the job market.
Owendale’s population problem, like much of Michigan, stems from a lack of jobs. The USDA hopes that internets funds, and the development of both an internet network as well as new electrification programs, will create small businesses. Expanding the connections between communities, they hope, will enable business to expand and will create more jobs.
While some locals are apprehensive about the changing rural landscape, others are optimistic that the USDA program will stabilize the economy. In addition, some residents are worried that USDA budget cuts could jeopardize the internet programs, dooming rural communities to economic stagnation.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer