50 rural communities plan revitalization, competing in $6 million “America’s Best”

Fifty quarterfinalist communities across the U.S. have been hard at work developing Community Revitalization Plans to jumpstart their local economies and improve quality of life.

Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank, and The Weather Channel, sponsors of the America’s Best Communities Prize Competition, have supported these quarter-finalists with $50,000 in seed money and assigned mentor partners as the communities compete to be America’s best and win $6 million in grand prizes.

From business incubators and new social gathering places to workforce training and infrastructure improvements, this community-driven prize campaign has uncovered a wealth of innovative ideas that are revitalizing towns and cities across rural and suburban America,” said Frontier Communications Executive Chairman Maggie Wilderotter. “350 communities entered the contest and all of them are implementing improvements for a better quality of life. As the contest progresses, all ideas are shared with every community who has participated so everyone wins.

In each of the quarterfinalist communities, local leaders have worked tirelessly to bring their neighbors together to support a collective vision and develop a strategy to deliver results. Yesterday the quarterfinalist communities submitted their best and final plans, which will be reviewed by a panel of independent expert judges. Fifteen communities will be selected as semi-finalists and will continue this journey by participating in the America’s Best Communities Summit in April 2016.

The America’s Best Communities program has become a movement for positive change in the 50 towns and cities that are in the quarterfinals,” said DISH Network Executive Vice President and General Counsel R. Stanton Dodge. “By uniting business owners, elected officials, leaders and residents to achieve a common goal, these communities are taking active steps to define and invigorate their futures.

Rural America is a mainstay of the nation’s broader economy and an essential source of food and energy for the entire world,” said CoBank CEO Bob Engel. “But rural communities also face a host of issues, including demographic challenges, a shortage of quality jobs and aging infrastructure. Rural economic development is the answer to many of these problems, and we are delighted to see the exciting proposals that have been put forward through the America’s Best Communities program.

By tapping into the tenacity and resilience of our nation’s small towns and rural regions, America’s Best Communities has helped drive exciting progress in communities across the country,” said Dave Shull, CEO of The Weather Channel Television. “The competition has provided an infusion of investment and hope in communities that are often ignored.

One in six of us calls rural America home. These communities are the backbone of our country, but they’ve suffered from a host of challenges, from poverty to drug abuse,” said Vince Gill, the country music great who has served as a spokesperson for the competition. “America’s Best Communities is an innovative way to inspire hope in rural America and provide a hand up, not a hand out. It will help our neighbors in small communities lift themselves up by their bootstraps and live their own American dream.”

To achieve economic revitalization, communities identified a diverse array of ideas in their plans:

  • Huntington, West Virginia wants to redevelop brownfields left behind by heavy industry and replace dilapidated housing to restore a key neighborhood.
  • Wilmington, Ohio plans to build a makerspace in a vacant building to encourage entrepreneurship and inspire its workforce.
  • Imlay City, Michigan intends to capitalize on its agricultural heritage, converting vacant lands into opportunities for community farms and agri-business.
  • Northern Idaho communities of Rathdrum, Hayden and Post Falls are pursuing a regional plan to become a hub for technologies related to autonomous and remotely piloted vehicles.
  • Lafayette, Indiana wants to invest in talent development, encouraging the community’s youth to cultivate their knowledge and grow their careers locally.

In January 2016, up to 15 communities will be named semifinalists and invited to attend the America’s Best Communities Summit, where they will present their revitalization plans. Eight communities will then be selected to receive $100,000 to implement their plans. The top three communities will be announced in 2017 and awarded a total of $6 million in grand prizes, with $3 million for the first-place community, $2 million for second and $1 million for third.

See original news release.

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