Rural Economic Development

To not only survive but thrive in the future, rural Texas needs creative solutions to the lack of opportunities for young people, population loss, and economic deterioration. We don’t just need projects that create low-paying jobs, but projects that create access to capital so that rural Texans can start businesses that lift up the whole community. The agricultural sector needs processing and transportation facilities that enable better access to markets and keep profits from those tiers of the supply chain in our communities instead of being siphoned off to Wall Street.

A huge piece of the Agriculture Commissioner’s job is to bring our tax dollars back from the federal government and into Texas communities. That takes a work ethic, good relationships with other elected officials and the federal government, and the gumption to leave no opportunity untaken, regardless of who’s in power in Washington. Rural economic development dollars are available, but Sid Miller has failed to bring Texans what we deserve.

Rural economic development is also intertwined with health care. Rural counties cannot survive without a school system and a hospital. Those institutions are often the largest employer in the county. Historically, many a farmer or rancher has survived the lean years because his wife was a nurse or schoolteacher with a steady income and health insurance. Economic development includes protecting those two institutions and fighting to save them. In addition, people will not retire to more affordable small towns without access to healthcare, nor will businesses consider locating in rural Texas if their employees cannot access healthcare.

Rural broadband is critical to both economic development and access to healthcare. More and more higher paying jobs can be done remotely which creates an opportunity for small towns to attract high wage earners — if they have the internet speeds available. Telemedicine is a game changer for rural health care, providing ready access to specialists that would otherwise take a day’s journey with the expenses and missed income opportunity that entails. But that too requires high-speed internet. The Agriculture Commissioner can help draw down more federal dollars from USDA to support rural broadband in Texas — if we have an Ag Commissioner who will do the work.