Area economy gets another look

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 13, 2003

Another state agency came to Demopolis Friday surveying the potential of the area for economic development. A team from the the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency took a drive-by tour Friday morning of Marengo County.

Led by state director Steve Pelham, the group, joined by local elected officials, chamber and industrial development leaders, were given an overview of local industry, potential sites and facilities.

The group then led a briefing Friday afternoon on the many grants and programs available to Marengo County from the agency.

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Pelham was appointed to his position two years ago by President George W. Bush. There are two USDA appointed positions, he said, one for farm programs and one for economic development.

The sole mission of USDA Rural Development, formerly the Farmers Home Administration, "is to help offer resources and technical assistance to improve the quality of life in rural areas."

The agency offers a variety of home financing program requiring little to no down payment to applicants in rural towns and communities throughout the state. Funds are available to finance community facilities such as health care facilities, community buildings, education facilities as well as purchasing fire and rescue equipment and finance water and waste systems.

Funding is available through grants, direct loans for business and housing and guaranteed loans, Pelham said.

With all the talk about how Alabama is usually at the bottom of national lists, Pelham made a point of "Alabama leads the nation in availability of water for rural residents. Eighty-nine percent of rural residents in Alabama have access to safe, dependable drinking water."

The South Marengo County Water and Fire Protection authority as well as the Town of Myrtlewood have received funding for system expansions and improvements through the agency’s water and wastewater loan and grant program.

The agency has also financed six multi-family complexes in Marengo County, three in Demopolis and three in Linden, providing 200 apartment units.

Pelham praised the work of the seven congressional representatives from Alabama, including Artur Davis. He predicted a rise in population would allow the state to regain an eighth representative seat lost in the 1960’s.

The local USDA Rural Development office is located in Camden. For more information, call 1-334-682-4116.