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New initiative hopes to bolster regional infrastructure

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By Chris Edwards
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A recent $3.1 million grant from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation is helping bolster the need for civic infrastructure in the Deep East Texas region.

The grant is supporting a new initiative called ConnectRURAL, a partial acronym, which stands for Regions Underserved Resources Available Lineup, which was launched by Communities Unlimited (CU) and the Temple Foundation.

The goal of ConnectRURAL, according to Ben Smith, with the initiative, is to strengthen the capacities of rural communities to plan for, secure, and manage transformational federal and state funding opportunities.

“Communities with strained civic infrastructure have been held back as they work to tackle their long-standing challenges. ConnectRURAL will assist small-underserved communities in accessing funding for federal programs by embedding Community Resource Managers throughout the T.L.L. Temple service area,” Smith stated in a news release.

Martha Claire Bullen, the CU Director of Community Sustainability called the project a potential “game changer for the region,” and praised the Temple Foundation’s commitment to the initiative.

“From community members to municipal leadership, there are dollars not making it to their intended destinations and our goal is to make that connection,” Bullen said.

The initiative will establish a special pooled funding mechanism for rural communities to access cost share and matching funds in order to secure federal grants, according to the news release.

A team of Community Resource Managers will serve as local intermediaries in a web of direct technical assistance and targeted funding will work to enhance regional development across the region.

The Community Resource Managers will collaborate with community leaders to identify local needs and develop action plans, according to the news release. “Through this collaboration, East Texas communities will connect local priorities with CU’s multi-state network of technical assistance expertise in rural water systems, broadband, entrepreneurship, small business lending and community sustainability,” according to Smith.

Wynn Rosser, president and CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, said the initiative is designed to overcome certain barriers that communities face in accessing resources.

“[T]his ConnectRURAL partnership with Communities Unlimited is our chance to do rural development differently in East Texas,” Rosser said.

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