LANSING, Mich. (WJMN) – Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive on January 4 creating the Office of Rural Development within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Office of Rural Development will focus on all rural matters, give guidance on issues facing rural Michigan and offer insight to the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration on how to invest in rural communities.

“Rural Michigan is a fundamental part of Michigan’s economy,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “By creating the Office of Rural Development, we are recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities in our rural communities and implementing policies and making investments to put Michiganders first. “This new office will play a crucial role in supporting MDARD’s efforts and leading new ones as we all work together to build a more prosperous rural economy.” 

The Office of Rural Development will be responsible for the following and more:

  • Work with the MEDC and other stakeholders on rural economic development;
  • Facilitate rural affordable housing development with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority;
  • Promote sustainability, environmental preservation and green energy development;
  • Address consequences of population and demographic trends in rural areas;
  • Analyze and give guidance on education-related issues in rural communities;
  • Collaborate with the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office to facilitate expansion of High-speed internet connections in rural communities;
  • Coordinate with tribal leaders in the state on issues facing rural Michigan.

“We are committed to investing in our rural communities and businesses through job creation, broadband and infrastructure expansion,” said Gary McDowell, MDARD Director. “The new Office of Rural Development will be laser-focused on reinvigorating Michigan’s rural economies and being their partner on the critical issues they are facing.” 

The office will be ran by the Deputy for Rural Development who will be designated based on demonstrated competency in issues facing rural Michigan.

“I’m very pleased to see our efforts to support rural communities pay off,” said Rep. Angela Witwer, D – Delta Twp. “This new office will ensure that Michigan communities, no matter their size or proximity to urban centers, receive the support they deserve. I applaud the governor for taking bold action to address their needs. I look forward to continuing to partner with the governor and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure that voices of rural Michiganders are heard in Lansing.”