A pattern exists among the most successful rural counties when it comes to rural development, and Bryan Daniel, state director of the USDA Rural Development in Temple, outlined that formula to members of the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce Friday.
The state director, who was appointed to the position by President Bush six years ago, said those counties have learned, among other things, to “hang together” and to focus their efforts with the local people who want “to do something,” as opposed to “do nothing” or “do anything.”
Chamber of commerce members and guests gathered at the Brownwood Country Club for the monthy membership luncheon.
“There are things that they are doing that enable them to be successful,” Daniel said.
He said all the successful counties have learned how to leverage their resources, money as well as human, beyond what they thought possible.
“The biggest exports of rural Texas are its cash and its kids,” Daniel said.
The successful communities also invest quickly in its intrastructure, which go beyond water, sewer and roads.
“That also includes health care, schools, after-school care, fire protection, police protection, libraries and much more,” Daniel said.
The leaders of top developers also focus on the future, instead of how things were in the past, and tackle the tough issues without shying from them.
At the same time, Daniel said, it’s important to show success, even if it involves the easiest task, because once people see things happening they’ll want to become involved.
“The USDA has 43 programs suitable for populations from 500 to 50,000, so we’ve probably got a program for you,” Daniel said. “But don’t rely on the USDA to get it done. You’ve got to bring it to us, you’ve got to make it happen, you’ve got a lot to do.
“We’re not supposed to be the leadership. But we’re not above helping you understand the gravity of what you need to do.”
Daniel said it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend how much of the state can be defined as rural.
“Can anyone imagine how rural Texas is?” he asked. “Twenty percent of Texas residents live in 80 percent of its land area. Twenty million people live in 20 counties, and most of them are in sight or sound of Interstate 35. We don’t ever forget about the 80 percent… but we have to figure out the best way to bring all the resources we have together.”
Rural Texas has fewer than 4 million residents.
Daniel said when he arrived at USDA, it operated as a lender of last resort, meaning it was contacted when traditional financial institutions wouldn’t extend credit. Now, the department functions more as a venture capitalist, looking for increasing economic opportunities while also improving the quality of life for rural Texans.
Daniel and Brownwood office representative Patricia Butler used the forum to present two awards to area entities. A ceremonial check for a $4,990,000 Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan was presented to officials with Harris Broadband, made on a loan issued by Citizens National Bank of Brownwood to build a communications network.
A ceremonial check for $575,000 was presented to officials of Cross Timbers Health Clinic Inc., made on a loan issued by Farmers & Merchants Bank of De Leon. The funds will be used to purchase a 5,000-square-foot building in Brownwood and to equip the facility. The clinic is currently leasing a smaller building.
In other business, chamber members were reminded of a Wake-Up Wednesday meeting at 7:45 a.m. June 27; a Business After Hours from 4 to 6 p.m. June 28; the July 7 fireworks show at Lake Brownwood; the Brown County Rodeo July 26-28; rodeo parade and downtown Salsa Fest on July 28; and the Business Showcase and Taste of Brownwood Sept. 27.