LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Understanding the unique challenges faced by people living and working in Michigan's rural communities was the focus of a virtual round table Friday with Governor Gretchen Whitmer and leaders representing rural Michigan.
The group discussed the recent establishment of the office of Rural Development. The new agency is within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development department.
Leaders, like Kim Shiner, Mayor of Manistique, Michigan talked about what they are experiencing in their communities from and aging and declining population to the lack of quality housing.
"If somebody were to move here we don't have the housing for them," Shiner said.
But housing isn't the only issues facing the small community, Shiner says she's having a tough time meeting the mental health needs of her residents.
"We have had a posting for a therapist for over six months now," she said.
Governor Whitmer recently created the office of Rural Development to help mayors like shiner and others address rural economic development and other community revitalization needs.
"How do we set a path that is really going to be transformational and how do we ensure that rural communities are a part of driving what that agenda looks like," the Governor told the group.
The investment in rural Michigan through the office of Rural Development is coming from federal ARPA funds.
"We've got these federal resources that have come into Michigan so we are not in the position debating where we are going to cut, we are debating where do we make investments," the governor said.
Gary McDowell is the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and rural Development the new Rural Development office will fall under his umbrella.
He's hoping the investments into rural Michigan will be long lasing and sustainable.
"We've created this office to make sure it focus solely on the rural part of the state and the needs, and aspirations, and dreams of the people who live in rural Michigan," McDowell said.
The office will work with other state agencies to help meet those needs.