USDA and DOLA Spotlight Public-Private Partnership Opportunities for Rural Community Development

How can Colorado foundations partner more closely with public agencies to support rural development and economic opportunity?

On September 27, Gates Family Foundation hosted an informative, informal opportunity to meet two state leaders for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, Sallie Clark, and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Division of Local Government, Rachel Harlow-Schalk.

Foundation leaders got the chance to learn about USDA's Rural Development programs and funding priorities around the state, including resources for local communities in affordable housing, business and economic development, and community infrastructure.

Foundations leaders also learned about the wide range of resources available through DOLA, including Colorado opportunities made possible by the federal Opportunity Zone program. Created in 2017, the program aims to spur economic recovery and growth in distressed communities, by providing a new tax reduction incentive for private equity investments in businesses and real estate ventures.

Harlow-Schalk shared that in order to get into a good position to receive these funds, communities must develop a prospectus of eligible projects. DOLA offers technical assistance and $25,000 matching grants, so this is a timely way for foundations to lend support.

Considering creating a prospectus for your community?

Sallie Clark was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as the State Director for USDA Rural Development in Colorado in November 2017. Previously she served as an elected El Paso County Commissioner from November 2004 to January 2018, including terms as Board Chair and Vice Chair. Through her long standing relationships with Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI) and the National Association of Counties (NACo), she has represented rural America. In 2015 she became the first Coloradan elected as President of NACo, and served on the association's Rural Action Caucus. Clark is a long-time resident of Colorado and has family roots in Colorado; her father was born and raised in Pueblo and she spent every summer on her grandmother's farm there. Clark has been a small-business entrepreneur and owner since 1986. She is well-respected by her peers and her community, and serves on many non-profit and government committees.

Rachel Harlow-Schalk joined DOLA as Deputy Director of Local Government in January 2014, bringing with her over 20 years of experience in municipal government including construction project management, budgeting, performance measurement, compliance assurance, environmental law compliance, brownfields cleanup, volunteer management and community engagement. For the Division, Harlow-Schalk leads all financial assistance programs (approximately $200M) legislative matters, strategic planning, local government management technical assistance (elections, financial requirements/budgeting), and performance measurement. She serves on the Colorado Emergency Planning Committee, the statewide Drought Task Force and manages the statewide Fiscal Stability Initiative. A Colorado native, Rachel obtained her undergrad and graduate degrees from Colorado universities.