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Rural MN Could See Economic Jolt from CHIPS Act

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Monday, August 29, 2022   

A program approved by Congress aims to give rural communities in Minnesota and elsewhere a boost when applying for federal dollars.

The CHIPS Act, passed last month, boosts semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.

It also includes a $1 billion pilot program to help distressed communities apply for economic development funds.

Groups tracking these provisions are hopeful smaller towns will get more priority. Luke Johnson - chair of the Minnesota Rural Counties organization and a Pipestone County commissioner - said prior to recent broadband investments, rural areas in the state lacked an edge in competing with larger cities.

"With broadband not being as available as it should be, that really drives where people want to be nowadays," said Johnson. "You can't attract residents if you don't have high-speed internet, and so much of rural Minnesota does not have adequate high-speed internet."

The CHIPS Act also includes $10 billion dollars for regional innovation and technology hubs across the country that would bring together a range of partners.

If those efforts extend into rural areas, Johnson said it could establish stronger foundations and tap into overlooked talent. But he stressed that the process needs to be streamlined.

As for the development funds, Matt Hildreth - executive director of Ruralorganizing.org - said big cities typically are first in line for federal grants, but he believes this program could change that.

"It targets funds specifically to small towns and rural communities, and communities across the country that are economically distressed," said Hildreth, "and ensures that they have a shot at getting access to those federal funds as well."

He noted that the vast majority of communities classified as 'economically distressed' are rural.

Hildreth also noted that each place has different development needs and that under this pilot, communities will guide the investments.

"It allows local leaders to have the flexibility they need to invest in the challenges that they see in their specific community," said Hildreth. "It's not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is a locally-led approach."




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