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(Washington, D.C.) — A $708,750 grant to help communities in rural New Hampshire develop their infrastructure and improve energy efficiency will create jobs and spur economic growth, announced U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today. The funding, which requires a local match, has been awarded to a consortium of education and economic development groups by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“I am hopeful that this grant will rejuvenate communities and businesses in a region facing significant economic challenges,” said Shaheen, who wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce supporting the project. “Increased international competition and aging infrastructure have caused many major employers in New Hampshire to close their mills and factories over the last decade.  The resulting job losses have directly affected about one in every five households in the area, making this grant crucial to the economic development of these communities.”

The Northern Tier Farm and Forest Jobs Accelerator program would encourage economic growth by assisting communities in rural New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont to improve energy efficiency, develop new fuel sources, enhance the entrepreneurial environment, increase telecommunication capability, strengthen transportation infrastructure and improve regional marketing of specialized wood products, such as wood pellet fuel.  The project is a joint effort by the Northern Community Investment Corporation, the Northern Forest Center, White Mountains Community College, Sustainable Forest Futures and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. 

With the grant funding, these groups will provide training to encourage businesses and contractors to install boilers powered by locally-produced wood pellets.  In addition, they will provide small businesses with Internet sales training, develop strategies to expand high speed Internet access and begin planning for a regional agricultural processing facility and distribution network. 

“These projects will help increase local value-added production in the North Country’s forest products and agricultural industries, creating 512 jobs in local businesses and providing a significant boost to the region’s economy,” said Northern Community Investment Corporation President Jon Freeman. “I deeply appreciate the support this proposal has received from both Vermont and New Hampshire’s Senate delegations.”

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the applicant’s eligibility, the application’s merit, and the availability of funds.  This project is funded through the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenge, a national competition administered by the EDA, USDA, the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), with support from nine additional federal agencies.  Each Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator investment is designed to spur job creation and economic growth in distressed rural communities.