When you think of America’s rural businesses, you probably think of family farms and small town life. Local markets with fresh produce in the summers, diners with some of the best waffles and hottest coffee you ever had, and a Main Street with one stop sign. And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but that’s not the whole story.
Many of America’s rural areas are also sites of entrepreneurship, with competitive utility rates and cost of living, abundant space, and most importantly a workforce that respects and rewards hard work. With the right vision and leadership, our nation’s digital economy could continue to find a natural home in the country.
Sadly, that vision feels more like a distant memory right now. For many of America’s rural communities, conditions on the ground are far more grave. The COVID pandemic has reached them and found a painfully vulnerable target.
Generations of neglect have already left many rural economies in tatters, infrastructure crumbling with little budget to repair it, aging populations and limited access to health care facilities. When rural Iowans don’t have reliable internet service at home, they often have to rely on libraries to communicate and access information. But these and other public resources can get crowded quickly, adding to the danger for those who need to use them.
Making matters worse, two of the biggest sources of COVID spread in America have been prisons and meatpacking facilities. With rural small business economies decimated, these are the only major employers left in many rural communities. Instead of recognizing the danger and adapting, President Donald Trump has pushed hard for these facilities to keep running without change or interruption. And now they have become deadly hot spots.
Rural Americans need a president who will have their backs, who will show up for them when a crisis hits and then stand with them as they build back better. Joe Biden has a plan to build America back better, to expand rural broadband and get America’s infrastructure back up and running, to open the doors for rural businesses to access capital and federal support including creating a competitive $5 billion state-run grant program for new business start-ups outside of our biggest cities. Joe gets it, and he has the plans we need to support small farms and community businesses that have always been the bedrock of America’s rural economies.
Donald Trump doesn’t have a plan. He doesn’t even want to keep the U.S. Postal Service running.
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When the economy was in a tailspin in 2009, Joe Biden helped lead us back from the brink and put us on track for the longest continuous economic expansion in American history. He has spent his career in public service fighting for people who need his help. With this pandemic raging through our communities and no end in sight under Trump, we need Joe now more than ever.
On Nov. 3, we have a chance to elect a president who cares about the hardships facing America’s rural communities, and one who sees the potential in our communities to rebuild stronger and better than before. Joe Biden has the vision and experience to get the job done. He has earned my vote. If you take a look at Joe’s plans and his record, I think you’ll find he has earned yours too.
Tom Vilsack served as governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007 and as U.S. secretary of agriculture during the Obama-Biden Administration from 2009 to 2017.