I grew up and raised a family in central Illinois, and I spent 35 years serving the farmers and small-business owners in that part of the country--including 14 years in Congress. So I know the challenges rural economies face.
Yesterday, as part of the President's three-day bus tour, I was pleased to join President Obama for the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa.
The Forum brought together small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities and small towns across the nation. And I had the opportunity to hear directly from a variety of rural leaders and talk about what DOT has done to help them during a special breakout session on transportation and infrastructure.
We know that affordable transportation choices in our rural communities give residents better access to jobs and health care, and provide an incentive for much-needed economic development. And continued federal investments in rural communities will create construction jobs and ensure that farmers and ranchers have the roads, rail lines, and ports they need to move their products to market.
President Obama, Vice President Biden, and all of us in this Administration are working every day to put Americans back on the jobsite--and to get our economy moving again.
We have worked hard to create opportunities across all regions of the U.S., and during our first two years in office, we put Americans to work on more than 7,000 individual transportation projects in rural areas.
And this didn't just give local economies across America a shot in the arm--it built and repaired roads, parkways, and other transportation systems that will help people and products move around the country for years to come.
DOT is now in the third round of funding for the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program--a program that has helped a number of rural cities and towns build innovative projects and lay the foundation for future economic growth. Through our competitive TIGER grant program, we have already invested in 24 major rural projects to replace unsafe bridges, and make roads safer.
We are also continuing to work with HUD and the EPA through an interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which is helping nearly 90 small towns plan for smart, environmentally-friendly growth.
This Administration understands how important it is for people living in rural parts of America to have safe, reliable, and efficient access to jobs, schools, hospitals, and commercial centers. By continuing to listen to the concerns and ideas of the millions of Americans who live in rural communities, we will ensure that America will remain connected and prosperous.