Rural Connections Blog
“Alaska is just different.”
So many people told me this when I applied for the opportunity to lead the new Rural Partners Network (RPN) team in Alaska. Julia Hnilicka, the Rural Development State Director, asked me during the interview if I was comfortable traveling in uncommon and interesting modes of transportation. Being a Veteran, I assumed she meant that I might ride in a boat or maybe even a helicopter…the sort of thing I have done before. I have since learned that many of the people we serve live in towns and villages with no road access at all. One must fly into a crushed gravel runway right next to the river, their seat crammed between a stack of produce and the village’s mail. This is how we travel to meet our partners in the rural areas of Alaska.
The Sierra Community Network, hosted by Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) consists of two counties, Lyon and Mineral, in the Northwestern Region of Nevada’s high desert. Strong mining communities, both rail and mining played a role in the growth of these communities many years ago. In fact, the first transcontinental railroad, the Central Pacific, ran through Lyon County though the route has since shifted.
The Southern West Virginia Community Network, hosted by the West Virginia Community Development Hub (The Hub), consists of the 12 southernmost counties of the Mountain State. The counties of Boone, Fayette, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Raleigh, Summers, Wayne, and Wyoming are steeped in pride and southern tradition and long associated with blue collar jobs in extractive industries. The coal industry dominated the region for more than a century with mining operations in all 12 counties. The combination of the coal and strong timber industry led to the expansion and development of the railroads. Downturns in the coal and timber industries, resource depletion, and shifting energy concerns diminished the prosperity and created a persistent cycle of poverty.
Humboldt and Pershing Counties are in the high desert region of northern Nevada, an agricultural and mining region rich in history, beautiful landscapes, and close-knit communities. The city of Lovelock in Pershing County and Winnemucca in Humboldt County are northeast of Reno along the I-80 corridor. Winnemucca has been regarded as the friendliest town in Nevada, and Lovelock is Nevada’s love-locking locale. Known for its beautiful open spaces and sprawling sand dunes, the area is home to outdoor enthusiasts and a prime area for fishing and hunting.
Southern Clark County Community Network is in Clark County, Nevada. The network is made up of three towns ranging in distances of 50 to 90 miles south of Hoover Dam. The towns of Searchlight, Cal-Nev-Ari, and Laughlin all have access to both the Lake Mead Recreational Area and the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument. The total population of the towns combined is approximately 8,530 residents, with Laughlin accounting for 8,000 residents alone.